July 16, 2024

Beyond Pills: The Future Unfurls with Oral Thin Films

Oral Thin Films: An Innovative Drug Delivery System

Oral administration of drugs have been the most convenient and preferred route of drug delivery since ancient times. However, conventional oral dosage forms like tablets and capsules have certain limitations. They can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal mucosa and show unpredictable absorption. To overcome these limitations, researchers have been working on developing innovative drug delivery systems. One such innovative system is oral thin films, which provide several advantages over traditional oral solid dosage forms.

What are Oral Thin Films?
Oral thin films, also known as orodispersible films or mouth dissolving films, are thin polymeric sheets usually measuring around 2-15 cm2 in area and weigh less than 250 mg. They are specifically designed to dissolve or disintegrate rapidly in the oral cavity, typically within a minute, without the need of water or chewing. This allows for enhanced bioavailability and fast action of drugs. Oral thin films contains active pharmaceutical ingredients along with film-forming polymers which provides the structure to the film. Common polymers used are hydrocolloids like pullulan, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), etc. Additionally, they may contain sweeteners and flavors to enhance patient acceptability and compliance.

Advantages of Oral Thin Films
Compared to conventional dosage forms, oral thin films offer several advantages:

Rapid disintegration: As oral thin films dissolve or disintegrate rapidly in the oral cavity without water, they provide a much faster onset of action within a few minutes compared to 30-60 minutes for tablets. This makes them very convenient for patients who have difficulty in swallowing tablets.

Convenience of administration: Being small, thin and flexible, oral thin films can be easily administered anywhere without water. They do not need storage in special packaging like capsules. This improves portability and convenience of use.

Enhanced bioavailability: Rapid disintegration and absorption of drugs from the oral cavity results in enhanced bioavailability compared to tablets where drug first needs to pass through the stomach. This allows use of lesser dose.

Improved patient compliance: Thin films are novel, easy-to-use dosage forms which tastes good due to presence of flavors. This improves acceptability, especially in pediatric and geriatric patients who refuse to take conventional drugs. Overall compliance is better compared to tablets.

Flexible dosage: Oral thin films are flexible in design and dosage which allows incorporation of multiple drugs, variable dosage and customized therapy. Combination therapy is easily possible by casting different drugs onto a single sheet. This tailored therapy can improve treatment outcomes.

Applications of Oral Thin Films
Given the numerous advantages, oral thin films have wide applications in delivery of various drugs:

CNS agents: Thin films are very useful in delivery of central nervous system (CNS) drugs like antiemetics, antiepileptics, analgesics which shows rapid action. Migraine treatments, motion sickness, postoperative nausea/vomiting are common applications.

Cardiovascular drugs: Drugs used in angina, hypertension can benefit from fast onset of action provided by oral thin films. Nifedipine is a popular antianginal delivered via oral thin films.

Anti-infectives: Rapid dissolution ensures enhanced systemic absorption of anti-infective agents used against bacterial, viral and fungal infections especially for emergency conditions.

Nutraceuticals: Oral thin films are gaining popularity in delivery of nutraceuticals, vitamins, minerals, supplements and functional foods due to convenience of use.

Pediatrics: Children prone to vomiting after oral drug intake can comply better to thin strips which dissolves smoothly. Cough/cold preparations are common pediatric applications.

Future Prospects
Oral thin films technology holds tremendous potential for future growth and applications. Some important areas which are being researched:

– Incorporation of mucoadhesive polymers can increase residence time of films in the oral cavity for prolonged therapy.

– Use of polymeric nanoparticles and microparticles within the film matrix may allow controlled release applications.

– Commercial interest is focusing on developing multi-drug films customized for chronic disease management. Anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive combinations are examples.

– Advanced printing technologies like ink-jet printing allow printing drug layers/patterns with high precision dosage. This leads to intelligent dosage forms.

– Combining with 3D printing, patient-specific oral thin films having customized drug content, shape and size can be fabricated.

– Expanding applications from pharmaceuticals to inclusion of functional ingredients for nutraceuticals, supplements and food applications.

Oral thin film technology is revolutionizing oral drug delivery by providing innovative solid dosage forms. Convenience of oral thin strips has potential to significantly improve medication adherence for widespread therapies. With continued research, this technology is likely transform development of advanced oral dosage forms for future.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it