Pelletttechnology The Renaissance of Pellets is Promoting Innovative Technologies

Author: Anke Geipel-Kern

 — In recent years, formulations based on pellets have been the trend. New technologies make it possible to circumvent property rights for active ingredients and are therefore very popular with pharmaceutical customers. But which technologies are the most important?

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Cellets: Pellets from microcrystalline cellulose
Cellets: Pellets from microcrystalline cellulose
(Sources: Glatt)

Pellets are the jack-of-all-trades of solid dosage forms. Positioned somewhere between powder and granulate, they make bitter medicine more palatable and can even awaken a child’s instinct to play when the dosage forms are imaginative enough. One well-known example is the Xstraw, a plastic tube shaped like a drinking straw which is filled with pellets of active ingredient, through which children or elderly people can take in the medicine with water.

Pellets Allow New Technologies

Pellets in tablets are also making a splash — hybrids which combine all the advantages of both dosage forms. The pioneers in the development of these formulations, known as Multiple Unit Pellet Systems (or MUPS for short), was Astra Zeneca in 1999. Their move to embed the proton pump inhibitor Omeprazole in micropellets and then compress these pellets into immediate release tablets was an award-winning one at the time. The development of MUPS and Xstraw symbolizes the impetus pellets have fueled in recent years.

Klaus N. Möller, Head of Business Development at Glatt in Binzen/Germany, explains: “New excipients, coating materials and sophisticated processes allow us to extend the patent protection period and to make the dosage form more attractive.“

The number of patents registered yearly for pellet-based formulations has increased exponentially and is set to continue. According to research performed by IMS Health, the market for OSD (Oral Solid Dosage Forms) is growing by 6 to 8 percent every year. The number of drugs approved by the FDA also reflect this trend: in 2015, more than half were solid products.

Pellets, as defined by pharmacy guru Prof. Peter Kleinbudde are “an isometric agglomerate of powder particles in an approximate spherical or cylindrical form”, and are a task for perfectionists. The smoother and rounder the pellets, the better they are at fulfilling their purpose.

The equipment manufacturer Glatt and their specialists from Pharmaceutical Services have been actively pursuing the subject for years. There are two fundamental ways of making active ingredient pellets: direct pelletization, in which the powdered active ingredient and excipient combine in a matrix, and active ingredient layering, in which uses side spray or Wurster technology to apply the active ingredient to a starter core of sugar or microcrystalline cellulose.

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About the author

 Anke Geipel-Kern

Anke Geipel-Kern

Leitende Redakteurin PROCESS/Stellvertretende Chefredakteurin PharmaTEC, PROCESS - Chemie | Pharma | Verfahrenstechnik