excipients Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

Patient involvement in the development, regulation and safe use of medicines


by Giuliana Miglierini The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) has published the CIOMS report on “Patient involvement in the development, regulation and safe use of medicines”. The report marks an important step forward towards a harmonised approach to Read more

Webinar: Implementation of Contamination Control Strategy Using the ECA template


The next EIPG webinar will be held in conjunction with PIER and University College Cork on Friday 21st of October 2022 (16.00 CEST), on the implementation of Contamination Control Strategy (CCS) using the ECA* template. This is the second Read more

Real-world evidence for regulatory decision-making


by Giuliana Miglierini Digitalisation is rapidly advancing also in the regulatory field, as a tool to improve the efficiency and accuracy of processes used for the generation and use of data to inform the regulatory decision-making. To this instance, real-world Read more

Trends in the development of new dosage forms

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

Oral solid dosage (OSD) forms (i.e. capsules and tablets) historically represent the most easy and convenient way for the administration of medicines. Recent years saw an increasing role of new approaches to treatment based on the extensive use of biotechnology to prepare advanced therapies (i.e. cellular, gene and tissue-based medicinal products). These are usually administered by i.v. injections or infusions, and may pose many challenges to develop a suitable dosage form, as acknowledged for example by the use of new lipid nanoparticles for the formulation of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines.

The most recent trends in the development of new dosage forms have been addressed by Felicity Thomas from the column of Pharmaceutical Technology.

The increasing complexity of formulations is due to the need to accommodate the peculiar characteristics of biological macro-molecules and cellular therapies, which are very different from traditional small-molecules. Bioavailability and solubility issues are very typical, for example, and ask for the identification of new strategies for the setting up of a suitable formulation. The sensitivity of many new generation active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to environmental conditions (i.e. temperature, oxygen concentration, humidity, etc.) also poses many challenges. Another important target is represented by the need to improve the compliance to treatment, to be pursued through the ability of patients to self-administer also injectable medicines using, for example, specifically designed devices. The parenteral administration of medicines has become more acceptable to many patients, especially in the case of serious indications and when auto-injectors are available, indicates another PharmTech’s article.

According to the experts interviewed by Felicity Thomas, there is also room for the development of new oral solid dosage forms for the delivery of biological medicines, as well as for OSD forms specifically designed to address the needs of paediatric and geriatric patients.

Some examples of technological advancements

Productive plants based on the implementation of high containment measures (i.e. isolators and RABS) are widely available to enable the entire manufacturing process to occur under “sea led” conditions, thus allowing for the safer manipulation of high potency APIs and the prevention of cross-contamination. Process analytical technologies (PAT), digital systems and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to improve the overall efficiency of the formulation process. This may also prove true for previously “undruggable” proteins, that thanks to the AI can now become “druggable” targets denoted by a very high potency (and a low stability, thus asking for specific formulation strategies).

Advances in material sciences and the availability of new nanotechnology can support the development of oral formulations characterised by improved efficacy and bioavailability. To this instance, the article mentions the example of new softgel capsules able to provide inherent enteric protection and extended-release formulation. Functional coating, non-glass alternatives for injectables, and new excipients may also play an important role in the development of new formulations, such as controlled-release products, multi-particulates, orally disintegrating tablets, intranasal dosage forms, fixed-dose combinations.

 The ability to establish a robust interaction with the suppliers enables the development of “tailor-made” specifications for excipients, aimed to better reflect the critical material attributes of the drug substance. The ability to formulate personalised dosage forms may prove relevant from the perspective of the increasingly important paradigm of personalised medicine, as they may better respond to the genetic and/or epigenetic profile of each patient, especially in therapeutic areas such as oncology.

Not less important, advancements of processing techniques used to prepare the biological APIs (for example, the type of adeno-viral vectors used in gene therapy) are also critical; to this regard, current trends indicate the increasing relevance of continuous manufacturing processes for both the API and the dosage form.

 Injectable medicines may benefit from advancements in the understanding of the role played by some excipients, such as polysorbates, and of the interactions between the process, the formulation and the packaging components. Traditional techniques such as spray drying and lyophilisation are also experiencing some advancements, leading to the formulation of a wider range of biomolecules at the solid or liquid states into capsules or tablets.

New models for manufacturing

API solubility often represents a main challenge for formulators, that can be faced using micronization or nano-milling techniques, or by playing with the differential solubility profile of the amorphous vs crystalline forms of the active ingredient (that often also impact on its efficacy and stability profile).

As for the manufacturing of OSD forms, 3D printing allows the development of new products comprehensive of several active ingredients characterised by different release/dissolution profiles. This technology is currently represented, mostly in the nutraceutical field, and may prove important to develop personalised dosage forms to be rapidly delivered to single patients. 3D printing also benefits from advancements in the field of extrusion technologies, directly impacting on the properties of the materials used to print the capsules and tablets.

Artificial intelligence is today of paramount importance in drug discovery, as it allows the rapid identification of the more promising candidate molecules. Smart medical products, such as digital pills embedding an ingestible sensor or printed with special coating inks, enable the real-time tracking of the patient’s compliance as well as the monitoring “from the inside” of many physiological parameters. This sort of technology may also be used to authenticate the medicinal product with high precision, as it may incorporate a bar code or a spectral image directly on the dosage form. Dosage flexibility may benefit from the use of mini-tablets, that can be used by children as well as by aged patients experiencing swallowing issues.

The peculiarities of the OTC sector

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines present some distinctive peculiarities compared to prescription drugs. According to an article on PharmTech, since the mid-‘80s the OTC segment followed the dynamics characteristic of other fast-moving consumer packaged goods (FMCG) industries (e.g., foods, beverages, and personal care products), thus leading to a greater attention towards the form and sensory attributes of the dosage form.

The following switch of many prescription medicines to OTC, in the ‘90s, reduced the difference in dosage forms between the two categories of medicinal products. Today, the competition is often played on the ability to provide patients with enhanced delivery characteristics, for example in the form of chewable gels, effervescent tablets for hot and cold drinks, orally disintegrating tablets and confectionery-derived forms. The availability of rapid or sustained-released dosage forms and long-acting formulations, enabling the quick action or the daily uptake of the medicine, is another important element of choice. Taste-masking of API’s particles is a relevant characteristic, for example, to make more acceptable an OSD form to children; this is also true for chewable tablets and gels, a “confectionery pharmaceutical form” often used to formulate vitamins and supplements.


Revision of the PIC/S GMP Guide: Annex 13 and Annex 16

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Giuliana Miglierini

The entry into force of EU Regulation 536/2014 “Clinical trials”, at the end of January, resulted in the parallel updating of some international guidelines. In particular, a new version of the GMP Guide PE016 was published by PIC/S (Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme) on 1st February 2022. The revision included Annex 13 on the manufacturing of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMPs), and the new Annex 16 on the certification and batch release to be performed by Authorised Persons (AP) (click here to access all PIC/S guidance related to GMP). The revision of PIC/s guidelines is aimed to reflect the last changes occurred in the corresponding EMA documents, so to maintain the alignment between the two regulatory references (as established by the cooperation agreement between EMA and PIC/S). PIC/S has invited all non- EEA Participating Authorities and applicants to transpose the new Annexes 13 and 16 into their own GMP Guides.

The new Annex 16

Annex 16 represents a completely new addition to the PIC/S GMP guide; the EU Annex 16 (part of the EU GMP Guide) was initially considered to be too EU-specific and difficult to transpose for PIC/S purposes. Following a consultation in 2017, PIC/S Participating Authorities agreed to make an attempt to transpose EU Annex 16, as the adaptation may support a better harmonisation of GMP standards at the international level.

Annex 16 refers to both human and veterinary medicinal products which are subject to the PIC/S Participating Authority or are made for export. Furthermore, the Annex applies to investigational medicinal products for human use, “subject to any difference in the legal provisions and more specific guidance published by PIC/S Participating Authorities under national law”. With reference to imported medicinal products, each PIC/S Participating Authority may independently and voluntary decide whether to adopt the guidance as a legally-binding standard.

Certain types of medicinal products (e.g. blood and immunological products) are not addressed by the Annex, as they are regulated by national laws and fall under the competences of National authorities; to this instance, Annex 16 applies to the certification process performed by the AP and to the subsequent release of the batches.

The marketing authorisation holder (MAH) remains the sole responsible for the safety, quality and efficacy of the marketed products. Authorised Persons are required to check each single batch to verify compliance to national and GMP requirements, as well as to those detailed within the marketing authorisation (MA). After certification by the AP, batches of finished products can be transferred to saleable stock and/or export. Specific and documented agreements are needed should this require transfer to a site different from the certification’s one. Authorised Persons should be clearly identifiable, with reference to any quality defect leading to investigation or batch recall. APs certifying the release of the finished product are responsible for verifying the conditions of storage and transport for the batch and the sample, if sent separately, and of all testing required upon importation (including sampling, where needed).

A formal Quality Risk Management (QRM) process is required when sampling is performed at a manufacturing site located in another jurisdiction; Annex 16 provides detailed guidance on the elements to be considered in this exercise. Documentation of the continuous training received by the AP in charge of certification and batch release should be always available, with specific reference to the product type, production processes, technical advances and changes to GMP.

Annex 16 provides detailed guidance on how to conduct the process of certification of each batch of finished product, independently of the number of sites involved. With reference to specific manufacturing or control steps performed at different sites, their respective AP has to provide confirmation of the performed activities, sharing responsibilities with the AP in charge of the final batch release.

The certification process should take into consideration the entire supply chain of both the active substance and the finished product, including manufacturing sites of the starting and packaging materials. The AP responsible for certification should be able to access results of the audits performed at the sites involved, in order to check the consistency of all activities with those described in the MA and within GMPs. Audits run by third parties should reflect requirements set forth in Chapter 7 of the PIC/S GMP Guide.

In particular, suppliers of active substances should comply with GMP and GDP requirements relating to the supply of the active ingredient used to the finished product manufacturing. Excipients should also fulfil GMP requirements, and be possibly manufactured and supplied in accordance with the PI 045-1 guideline. Specific guidance may also apply for other types of products, i.e. biological active substances and medicinal products for human use or radiopharmaceuticals. Annex 16 provides templates for the confirmation letters to be used for the partial manufacturing of a medicinal product and for the content of Batch Certificates.

The revision of Annex 13

Annex 13 has been revised in order to reflect the contents of the new EU Regulation n. 536/2014 on clinical trials, which will replace EU Annex 13. PIC/S Annex 13 discusses the manufacturing of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMP), apart from the reconstitution phase, which is not considered to be part of the process. Provisions set forth by Annex 13 should be taken into consideration with reference to the re-labelling or re-packaging of IMPs and to the preparation of radiopharmaceuticals used as diagnostic investigational medicinal products, occurring in hospitals, health centres or clinics and performed by pharmacists or other persons legally authorised in the country concerned.

All activities should refer to an appropriate Pharmaceutical Quality System to be in place, according to requirements set forth in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the PIC/S GMP Guide.

 The characteristics of IMPs may intrinsically evolve along the development process, as new data become available that may require changes to, for example, the formulation or the dosage form. This has to be reflected into the respective product specifications and manufacturing instructions, that should also evolve in parallel and be fully traceable and documented. Annex 13 indicates that all deviations should be registered and investigated, and preventive and corrective actions put in place. The new Annex provides detailed guidance on the different items to be considered within the product specification file, as well as for the proper management of personnel, premises and equipment.

All the documentation generated during the clinical development phases should fulfil requirements specified by the PIC/S GMP Guide, Part I, Chapter 4. To this instance, relevant documentation includes specifications and instructions, orders, manufacturing formulae and processing instructions, packaging instructions and batch records. Detailed guidance is provided also for production, including packaging materials and manufacturing operations, the modification of comparator products, blinding operations, and the packaging and labelling of the IMP. Annex 13 also offers guidance on how to perform quality control and batch release, and how to address outsourced operations, complaints and recalls and or the destruction of batches of IMP products.