Pharmaceutical excipients can have a profound impact on the release profile of drugs, driving fine chemical companies to raise their game since they realise their clients see excipients as more than inactive ingredients.
At the Controlled Release Society's annual meeting in Vienna, specialty chemical companies were out in full force to convince drug manufacturers that their excipients do not just facilitate production but also enhance the efficacy of drugs through controlled release. Some companies are discovering that raw materials that have been traditionally used as solvents or excipients have interesting drug delivery properties.
Gaylord, for example, has been supplying the pharma industry with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) for years, establishing itself as the biggest provider of DMSO in the world. DMSO is used as a solvent in which active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are made.
But lately Gaylord has been making DMSO of United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) grade because it has been shown that when it is included in transdermal formulations, it enhances the permeation of many APIs through human skin.
"If you look at the skin permeation of tetracaine or lidocaine with DMSO, you will see the uptake is rapid," Artie McKim, Gaylord's director of technology, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
"This is a drug-specific issue though, it is difficult to predict the exact classes of drugs DMSO works with well in transdermal delivery."
Other specialty chemical firms go beyond selling excipients as components of drug delivery and develop their own delivery technologies which they license to drugmakers.
A case in point is Degussa; the company has developed three oral drug delivery technologies - Eudrapulse, Eudracol and Eudramode - based on its polymers that can achieve various release profiles lasting up to 24 hours.
"We wanted to be more than an excipient provider and be closer to our customers, offering them complete drug delivery solutions," Gerhard Renner, director of technologies at Degussa Pharma Polymers, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
"We started pushing these technologies in 2003 and we have seen a lot of interest from companies looking to license them."
Other fine chemical firms are more conservative. It is interesting that BASF has highly functional polymers like Degussa that it uses in solid oral dosage forms and a range of coatings - instant release, sustained release and enteric coatings.
Yet unlike Degussa, BASF has not yet brought its own drug delivery technologies to the market.
"Our innovative coating polymer Kollicoat in combination with sustained release coatings allows for new principles of drug delivery and of course we thoroughly explore business opportunites which will come along with these developments," BASF's head of business development, Christof Kandzia, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
"We are very pleased with the accelerating growth of our new Kollicoat coatings line and despite their long history, our PVP-based Kollidon grades are still growing driven by strong customer demand."
As drug delivery emerges as a lucrative market, specialty chemical firms are set to intensify their efforts to develop new functional excipients and even drug delivery technologies, resulting in one major beneficiary - the drug manufacturer.