Particle coating process adds layer of innovation to pharmaceuticals

Process developed by Innopharma gives advanced control of particle coating thickness

Modified drug release rates play a key role in the efficacy of modern medicines. For example, delayed release of active ingredients allows patients to take fewer tablets or capsules to achieve the same benefits. This is achieved through the coating which is applied to the drugs. Not the coating on exterior shell of the tablet but the one applied to the individual particles of the active ingredient contained inside the tablet or capsule.

These coatings are applied using a process known as fluid-bed coating. However, currently there is no smart means of controlling the coating thickness of the active pharmaceutical ingredient during the application process. This can lead to variations in thicknesses, causing entire batches of pharmaceuticals to be rejected as a result.

Innopharma has developed a solution to this issue which incorporates Internet of Things technologies such as smart sensors, data feeds and real-time data visualisations to track and control the coating process. The solution ensures the very specific coating to establish the drug release profile for a given batch of capsules or tablets is achieved. It allows pharma companies to manufacture a batch of drugs with a precise coating thickness in the shortest possible time and delivers a full record of the operation.

Growing demand

“Our technology allows pharmaceutical companies to control the coating process and ensures each batch is within specifications,” says Seán Costello, technical operations director with Innopharma. “The other part of the story is the growing demand for modified-release drugs. Using traditional drugs a patient might have had to take a tablet or a capsule four times a day or more. Using modified-release drugs, they can have a 24-hour dosage in one tablet. This aids patient compliance and makes it much easier for them to take their medication on time every time.”


Another side of it is the reformulation of existing medicines for other uses and applications. “Adult medications can be reformulated and made suitable for the paediatric market,” Costello explains. “It will also be possible to combine more than one medicine in a single tablet, again improving compliance.”

The Innopharma solution uses sensors to video the process at ultra-high resolution and then uses advanced image analysis software to track the coating of the particles. “The images are analysed in real time with the results sent directly to the process equipment,” Costello adds. “This allows parameters to be changed in order to keep the process on track. The system adapts dynamically to deliver the right results every time.”

The technology was launched in late 2017 and the company is currently engaging with potential customers and partners in the global pharmaceutical industry. "We are actively promoting and marketing the technology at present and we have set up a demonstration laboratory at our head office in Sandyford in Dublin where customers can come and see it in action. We are also working closely with fluid-bed coating materials manufacturers to leverage access to the market for our value proposition to customers."