Liqui-Pellet: The emerging next-generation pill for enhanced drug efficacy and improved safety
Around 60% of pharmaceutical drugs on the market and 40% in development are poorly soluble, which means they do not dissolve efficiently in the body, compromising the therapeutic effect of the drugs. Solid tablets are currently made by mixing together carrier materials with an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).
If this API has low water solubility, it will not dissolve effectively in the gastrointestinal fluid, leading to poor drug absorption and the reduction of the therapeutic effect, referred to as poor bioavailability. Doses may need to be increased to achieve a sufficient therapeutic response, which can increase the risk of drug side effects.
Liqui-Pellet is a novel and flexible technology capable of improving the poor bioavailability of many drugs and achieving a rapid drug release rate in a simple and cost-effective manner. While it appears to be a solid pill (such as a tablet or capsule), the active pharmaceutical ingredient is in a liquid state within tiny pellets throughout the whole structure of the pill. This combination makes drug release more predictable and reliable, offering a pathway towards more accurate and efficient medicine.
The difficulty of maintaining liquid API within a solid structure was a major pharmaceutical obstacle preventing such techniques from being commercially used, which has persisted more than two decades. Liqui-Pellet addresses this technological issue. Once commercialised, Liqui-Pellet will be the first of its kind.
Liqui-Pellet also enhances drug efficacy, reduces the risk of side effects and lowers manufacturing costs, all problems set out in the ‘Developing Future Therapies’ Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges issued by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). In addition, it has the potential to benefit a wide range of patients, including paediatric and geriatric patients, as well as those patients who cannot swallow.
Despite being simple and cost-effective, Liqui-Pellet can outperform and compete with other more advanced and costly technologies. There is potentially a strong global market in both developed and less developed countries for Liqui-Pellet, as it is cost-effective and simple to manufacture.
- Paediatric use – The small pellets can be sprinkled on food, such as yoghurt, which is easier for small children to swallow. The pellet can be coated to make bitter medicine taste pleasant.
- Geriatric use and for patients with swallowing difficulty – Liqui-Pellet can be put into a capsule or compressed into a tablet. The capsule can be opened in order to provide small swallowable size pellets to patients and the tablet can be placed in a cup of water where it quickly re-disperses back to its pellet form for easy swallowing.
- Patients who cannot swallow often require drugs to be administered as crushed tablets in solution through a tube from the nasal cavity to the stomach. Many drugs are coated in a film to control the rate of drug release (referred to as sustained release). Once crushed, the film coating is destroyed, cancelling out the sustained release function. Liqui-Pellet addresses this issue as it can be re-dispersed into tiny pellets, which can be administered through the nasogastric tube while maintaining the film coating.
The technology is protected by an International (PCT) patent application no. PCT/GB2019/052065.
-  Lam, M., Ghafourian, T. & Nokhodchi, A. Liqui-Pellet: the Emerging Next-Generation Oral Dosage Form Which Stems from Liquisolid Concept in Combination with Pelletization Technology. AAPS PharmSciTech 20, 231 (2019) DOI: 10.1208/s12249-019-1441-9
-  Lam, M., Ghafourian, T. & Nokhodchi, A. Optimising the release rate of naproxen liqui-pellet: a new technology for emerging novel oral dosage form. Drug Deliv. and Transl. Res. (2019) DOI: 10.1007/s13346-019-00659-6
An article outlining the technology has also been published in PharmaTimes magazine.