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Meredith WestonMeredith Weston is the eLearning Program Manager for AAPS.

On a molecular level, taste is a sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with receptors of taste buds. This, along with smell and trigeminal nerve stimulation, determines the sensory impressions, or flavors, of food or other substances. In the pharmaceutical world, taste has become one of the most important parameters governing patient compliance.

A recent study stated that medication compliance in pediatric patients ranges greatly from 11% to 93% and at least one third of all patients fail to complete relatively short-term treatment regimens. Poor compliance can be detrimental as it places patients at risk for continued disease and it prevents accurate assessment of the quality of care provided. Numerous oral pharmaceuticals and bulking agents have unpleasant, bitter-tasting components that make them undesirable, especially for pediatric and geriatric patients. Therefore, the oral administration of bitter drugs with a pleasing taste is a key issue for health care providers. In turn, any pharmaceutical formulation with an agreeable taste has become preferred over a competitor’s bitter product due to the fact it would most likely translate into better compliance and therapeutic value for the patient and ultimately more profits for the pharmaceutical company. This ever-growing desire for improved palatability in pharmaceuticals has prompted a need for the development of novel techniques in pharmaceutical development.

Hot melt extrusion (HME) has increased in prominence throughout the pharmaceutical industry as an innovative approach in developing solid dispersion dosage forms that enhance the bioavailability of poorly soluble drugs. This feature, coupled with its ability to incorporate taste masking of bitter active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), makes HME an excellent alternative to other conventionally available techniques such as roll spinning and spray drying.

More recently, a study reported on the popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Ibuprofen, which they embedded in a methacrylate copolymer matrix to produce solid dispersions via HME processing. The resulting granules were then made into orally disintegrating tablets. In this study, taste masking was achieved through intermolecular forces (hydrogen bonding) between the active substance and the polymer matrix by processing oppositely charged compounds through HME. The taste and sensory evaluation in human volunteers demonstrated excellence in masking the bitter active and improved tablet palatability overall.

HME may be the solution needed to improve medication administration compliance. Who wouldn’t rather have strawberry or grape flavored medications?

What other challenges does taste masking face?