By Brian McMillan, M.S.Pharm, CoreRX
Solid dosage forms are a wellestablished, widely-used delivery method, yet they are also an area of innovation that can slash drug development times and costs while improving patient outcomes. The tablet technology that brought Aspirin, Lipitor and innumerable other drugs to billions of patients is evolving into multi-layer and combination products.
Multi-layer tablets take a slightly different approach to delivering multiple therapeutic payloads. The tablets are made up of two to four layers, each of which can have a different release profile and API. This makes creative, more-effective combinations possible. A tablet for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for example, could first deliver a burst of API to help the patient when they wake up and then release a slow stream of the same drug throughout the rest of the day. If needed, a third layer could deliver a different API to manage a comorbidity, such as depression.
Such combinations are particularly useful in light of two fundamental characteristics of modern healthcare — we have effective treatments for many major diseases, and patients are taking several of these drugs at the same time. In this environment it is hard to develop new drugs that improve on existing products, yet the efficacy of current treatments is limited by poor patient compliance stemming from the tablet burden placed on patients who are prescribed many medications. Combining multiple active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in a single dosage form can therefore be a win for both patients and drug developers.