Oral films offer painless, precise drug delivery

Getting young children to take their medicine can be tricky, especially if it’s a yucky tasting syrup, a tablet, or – worse – an injection. Likewise, elderly people can struggle with taking large and numerous tablets. Now, researchers have developed an oral film that offers painless, hassle-free and precise drug delivery and is more environmentally friendly, to boot.

Based on their personal and professional experiences of the difficulties of administering medications to older folk and children, researchers from the Department of Pharmacy at the National University of Singapore (NUS) set about creating an innovative solution.

They developed a novel oral film that is placed against the mouth’s inner lining or oral mucosa. The inner cheek and the area under the tongue are full of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, meaning that drugs can be rapidly absorbed through the thin mucosal membrane directly into the bloodstream without going through the digestive system. Avoiding the digestive system offers a way of delivering medication to patients with intractable nausea and vomiting, difficulty swallowing, or problems with gut absorption.

Each oral film is round and thin and comes in two sizes, equivalent to Singaporean 10- and 20-cent pieces; so, around 0.7 in (18.5 mm) or 0.8 in (20 mm) in diameter. Customized ingredients formulated for a particular medication are premixed and added to a drug solution. A volume of the solution of the required dosage is pipetted onto the film, which is then dried using a light-duty oven. The films are then sealed in compact packaging.

Once in the mouth’s moist environment, the film swells and dissolves after a pre-determined amount of time. Whatever is left over can either be removed or swallowed. All of the film’s ingredients are edible and non-toxic.

In addition to reducing the risk of patients choking on and/or inhaling syrups, the researchers say their approach eliminates dosing errors associated with liquid medications. A previous study found that mistakes were more than four times more likely to be made with a liquid medicine than with a tablet from a pill dispenser.

And because the novel delivery method is created on-demand for individual patients, there’s no need for bulky packaging or the inclusion of dosage-measuring devices such as needles and syringes, making the product more environmentally friendly.

“Our films are compounded on-demand to ensure that they contain the precise dosage and strength for each patient, and then sealed in minimal packaging,” said Poh Leng Tan, who was part of the team that developed the film. “This streamlined approach to drug delivery not only saves time and money, but also reduces the environmental impact.”

The oral film is now being commercialized through an NUS start-up, PharLyfe+, founded by Chan and her team. They plan to use the film to administer medications to patients at end-of-life, to deliver important anti-anxiety drugs in a way that avoids painful injections. Further studies are planned to evaluate the effectiveness of the drug delivery method in epileptic patients.

“Our oral film marks a significant milestone in patient-centric and personalized medicine, offering a safer and eco-friendly alternative to traditional drug delivery methods,” said Sui Yung Chan, lead researcher. “The film is very easy to use, so patients are empowered with dignity and independence in managing their treatment from the comfort of their homes. We look forward to collaborating with healthcare providers to develop and apply the oral films to improve patient care and treatment outcomes.”

Source: National University of Singapore

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