Formulating Amorphous Solid Dispersions: Bridging Particle Engineering and Formulation

Life Sciences, Pharma Manufacturing & Supply Chain, Pharmaceutical,
  • Thursday, April 06, 2017

In this webinar, the importance of an integrated development of both the spray dried intermediate (SDI) and the formulation is highlighted. By bridging particle engineering of the drug product intermediate and the final dosage formulation one is able to perform a concurrent optimization of drug performance and process performance, with respect to yield, throughput and process robustness throughout the process train. This is achieved by using QbD tools such as Design of Experiments and mechanistic modelling that are used to integrate all the competing factors in formulation development and establish the optimal processing conditions and material attributes.

Up to 90% of the drugs in the pharmaceutical pipeline are classified as poorly soluble according to the Biopharmaceutical Classification System. Different enabling platforms are available to address low solubility of drugs, including lipid formulations, size reduction, complexation with cyclodextrins and amorphous solid dispersions (ASDs). Among these, amorphous solid dispersions have emerged as one of the preferred methods to increase the aqueous solubility of drugs. Amorphous solid dispersions can be obtained by combining an API with a stabilizing polymer using hot melt extrusion, spray drying or co-precipitation among others. This webinar will focus on ASDs obtained by spray drying, which is one of the most versatile processes to obtain ASDs since it is a continuous, scalable and a commercially demonstrated process that can also be used for particle engineering. ASDs are typically formulated as tablets for oral delivery. Formulation of an ASD presents a different set of challenges from the ones encountered when formulating crystalline APIs. This is both due to the presence of the stabilizing polymer and the need to provide a complete release of the API without inducing recrystallization. The purpose of the polymer in the dispersion is to stabilize the amorphous state of the API and inhibit recrystallization during dissolution and the polymer is often present in larger quantities than the API. Commonly used polymers include HPMCAS, PVPVA and HPMC. The large ASD load added to the vastly different material properties of ASD formulations also limits the feasibility of platform approaches to tablet formulation development, often employed for low drug loading tablets. ASDs are typically hygroscopic and moisture sensitive which reduces the feasibility of using wet granulation processes to improve the mechanical properties, commonly used for crystalline formulations.

When considering the downstream process, both direct compression and dry granulation can be used for ASDs. Direct compression is preferred due to the simplified process stream, but for the formulation of high ASD load tablets, this option poses additional challenges. The low density of hollow particles obtained by spray drying exhibit poor flow which results in variable die filling performance and tablet weight. In order to obtain an adequate direct compression performance with an ASD formulation, optimizing the spray dried particles is critical. As an alternative, dry granulation can be used for densification and granule size increase. The use of a granulation technique that compacts the SDI into a ribbon which is later milled for obtaining granules mitigates the adverse impact of the SDI attributes on the downstream process. In this case, the spray dryer development can be focused on improving throughput and yield, while the optimization of the tableting operation is achieved through the fine tuning the roller compaction parameters. A disadvantage of roller compaction is the loss in compactability resulting from work hardening. Again, a compromise must be met where the densification level is adequate for achieving tablet weight uniformity without compromising compactability.

Concerning drug exposure, for traditional immediate release dosage forms based on crystalline drugs, maximizing the dissolution performance focuses on ensuring complete dissolution of the drug within a defined time period. In the case of an ASD-laden tablet, one must also take into account that the amorphous solubility is metastable and the drug will eventually recrystallize, which ultimately limits bioavailability. Furthermore, drug release performance of an ASD can be impacted by both the SDI formulation and particle engineering as well as the tablet formulation and downstream processing. The case-studies illustrated in this webinar demonstrate how particle engineering can influence the performance and downstream process of an ASD and the importance of integrating spray drying with downstream process development for maximizing the potential of this solubilization platform. The use of QbD tools such as Design of Experiments and mechanistic modelling can be used to integrate all the competing factors and bridge particle engineering and the final dosage formulation to establish the optimal processing conditions and material attributes.

Key Learning Objectives:

  • Specific aspects of formulating amorphous solid dispersions into oral dosage forms
  • Impact of spray dried dispersions properties in downstream processing
  • Optimization strategies for downstream processing of amorphous solid dispersions


João Henriques, Team Leader, Particle Design and Formulation Development, Hovione

João Henriques joined Hovione in 2008 as a PAT specialist supporting Particle Engineering and formulation projects. He has been working as a Formulation and Process Development Scientist since 2013. Since then, he has supported development and validation of spray drying, jet-milling, roller compaction and tableting projects.

João Henriques is a Biological Engineer by training. He specialized in process monitoring and control as a PAT specialist for pharma and biopharma processes.

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Pedro Valente, Senior Scientist, Particle Design and Formulation Development, Hovione

Pedro Valente joined Hovione in 2015 as a Scientist in Drug Product Development, supporting development and validation of spray drying, roller compaction and tableting projects.

Pedro Valente is a Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineer by training. He specialized in mathematical and computational modeling of fluid flows (CFD) applied to the aerospace industry. These are now being applied  to pharmaceutical processes such as spray drying and drug product processes.

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Who Should Attend?

Senior professionals from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including:

  • Scientists
  • Formulators
  • Heads/Directors of Formulation Services
  • Heads/Directors of Business Development

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Hovione has over 57 years of experience as a CDMO and is currently a fully integrated supplier offering from drug substance to drug product intermediate to drug product. With four FDA inspected sites in the US, China, Ireland, and Portugal, and development laboratories in Lisbon and New Jersey, the company provides branded pharmaceutical customers services for the development and compliant manufacture of innovative drugs and is able to support highly potent compounds. For generic pharmaceutical customers, the company offers niche off-patent API products. In the inhalation area Hovione is the only independent company offering a complete range of services.

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