What’s next in drug delivery?

Experts share insights on the advancements in drug delivery to enable sustained drug delivery, facilitate drug protection, encourage drug adherence and improve patient-centricity

The healthcare research landscape is evolving constantly to improve treatment outcomes and patient-centricity. As a result, the life sciences industry, be it pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, functional foods or cosmoceuticals, is witnessing various innovations in the field of drug delivery as well.

Scientists working in FR&D and drug delivery are on a continuous quest for more targeted and controlled drug delivery methods which can optimise the potential of new therapeutic approaches and mitigate risks and side effects associated with them. A white paper shared by CAS, a division of The American Chemical Society explains, “Targeted drug delivery systems, designed to maximise the therapeutic impact of drugs on a localised area, have been the focus of significant research attention for decades. However, as developers increasingly look to reduce the harmful side effects associated with potent active ingredients, recent years have seen a substantial increase in research output for these technologies.”

The same white paper also highlights, “New drug formulations are being continually developed to enhance the stability and efficacy of medicines, improve patient compliance with treatment regimen, and comply with changing regulatory requirements. Furthermore, the trend towards more personalised medicine and greater patient choice has led to active pharmaceutical ingredients being formulated using multiple drug delivery systems and dosage forms to customise offerings for the needs of different patient populations. The continued expansion in IP reflects ongoing innovation in this area.”

The India story
In India too, changing demographics, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, demand for better healthcare facilities, changing consumer behavior, emerging therapeutic areas and technological advancements have led to significant progress in the field of drug delivery for quite some time. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent fears about a scarcity of essential life-saving drugs and devices and to curb the spread of this pandemic as well as for the treatment of other ailments is likely to spur growth over the coming years as well.

Market reports predict substantial growth in India’s drug delivery devices market. For instance, a report by ResearchAndMarkets.com enlightens that the Indian Drug Delivery Devices Market was valued at around $564 million in FY2020 and is expected to grow at a steady CAGR of 8.05 per cent by FY2026 driven by “growing use of drug delivery systems in healthcare facilities”.

It further informs, “Growing awareness regarding drug metabolism is expected to propel the market growth through FY2026. In addition to this, increasing pervasiveness of chronic infections among the population is further anticipated to bolster the growth of the Indian drug delivery devices market in a positive way.”

FICCI and KPMG India recently released a report titled, ‘Impact of the pharma industry on the Indian economy in the post-COVID era’. A foreword by Vijay Chawla, Partner and Head – Risk advisory Head – Life Sciences KPMG in India, states, “The coming decade is extremely critical for the Indian pharma sector. India has shown incredible resilience in meeting not only the domestic demand but also catering to the global pharma needs, ensuring accessibility of critical medications. However, with its disruptions, the pandemic has also shed light on the emerging opportunities that lie ahead for the sector. The paper talks about the creation of an integrated ecosystem that focuses on accelerating research & innovation, strengthening manufacturing and supply chains and improving access to medicines. R&D and technology have been key catalysts driving industry-academia collaborations, which are expected to foster innovation and benefit the sector through transformation across the value chain.”

It points out, “New chemical entities (NCEs) and New biological entities (NBEs) offer an opportunity for the Indian pharma sector to build expertise in drug discovery. These products have been receiving a significant attention from the leading multinational pharma players. For the Indian pharma industry to be future secured and sustainable, it must leverage its expertise in chemistry and biologics and put concerted efforts into new drug discovery.”

All these will also open up avenues for growth and innovation in drug delivery. Likewise, evolving regulations, developments in active ingredients, etc are also instrumental for advancements in drug delivery.

Therefore, Express Pharma’s FDD Conclave 2022, coming this June, will deep dive into advancements in existing drug delivery systems and examine their potential to keep pace with innovations in formulations and new therapeutic areas. They will also explore how novel drug delivery systems can enable sustained drug delivery, facilitate drug protection, encourage drug adherence and improve patient-centricity.

In the lead up to the event, a few stakeholders and experts from the industry share their insights on the trends in drug delivery and the approaches that are gaining popularity and prominence in this field, especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on to know more…

Nano-based drug delivery systems will gain more traction

Amongst all the disruption, confinement and loss caused by COVID-19, there have been some unexpected positive effects on human life. One big positive has been the rapid strides that pharma and biotechnology companies worldwide made in the rapid development of vaccines and advanced device-based drug delivery systems.

Patients and caregivers are now more eagerly looking for advanced devices such as self-administered devices, smart wearables, and connected devices.

For examples
(a) Nanomaterial chemistry has enabled the development of smart stimuli-responsive drug delivery systems that can ensure spatial or temporal, on-demand drug delivery to a targetted site
(b) Connected drug delivery devices provide new capabilities that are never seen on the market like remote control of the drug delivery including programmable delays at the start, managing complex dose rates and dosing regimens from more than one drug container, or even more than one delivery device and connection with diagnostics.

The nano-based drug delivery systems will gain more traction in the drug delivery devices market due to their ability to offer multiple benefits in treating chronic human diseases by site-specific and target-oriented delivery of precise medicines. These systems can increase the cellular uptake of drugs because of the surface charge and they can increase the stability and water solubility of drugs.

There are several path-breaking applications of nanomedicine (chemotherapeutic agents, biological agents, and immunotherapeutic agents) in the treatment of various diseases on the horizon.

Leveraging our expertise and resources to tackle the worst public health crisis was the biggest learning and victory

Agile ways of working has been one of the biggest lessons learnt from the pandemic. This was amply demonstrated with the fast track development and approval of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Leveraging our expertise and resources to tackle the worst public health crisis was the biggest learning and victory.

We also witnessed a rush to repurpose existing drugs for the treatment of COVID-19. These learnings need to be taken forward to identify novel clinical use to explore treatment options for newer indications. There is a solid knowledge base and safety data of existing molecules and this can help to considerably reduce the drug development process, cost and the time.

COVID-19 has led to significant geo-economic and geopolitical shifts. There is a major thrust on self-sufficiency in all the major economies of the world. There needs to be renewed focus on developing capabilities in the API manufacture, complex generics, biosimilars, gene and cell therapies. This will reduce our dependence on other countries and help us address larger global markets.

The pandemic has compelled organisations to think more creatively to overcome bottlenecks. The extraordinary circumstances has undoubtedly hastened the digital disruption and forced to think outside the box. Many organisations have partnered with AI startups to look for drug candidates for a range of diseases. AI is also put to use to build more robust processes to avoid human errors and increase manufacturing output.

Our time is now. The industry needs to invest for the future, without losing focus on quality, speed to market, easy access and affordable healthcare for all.

Sublingual route of administration ensures that supplements are easily dissolved without swallowing or chewing

If there’s one thing that we have all realised the importance of, courtesy of the pandemic, it is health.

At Wellbeing Nutrition, we use new-age technology and the purest all-natural ingredients to ensure that we only deliver the best to our customers. Our recent tech innovations, including Sublingual Delivery and Delayed-Release Capsules, are our efforts to improve health across the populace.

Sublingual delivery: Sublingual refers to the pharmacological route of supplements/drug administration by which substances get easily dissolved into the bloodstream instead of being broken down during digestion. Our melts range of oral thin strips embodies the sublingual route of administration, which ensures that the supplements are easily dissolved without swallowing or chewing. This ensures quicker absorption and more bioavailability as compared to the traditional formats that are consumed orally, which go first to the liver for metabolism and then to the bloodstream.

Delayed-release capsules: Slow, a range of time-conscious supplements that help keep up with our fast-paced life and help us sustain it for longer. These capsules contain plant-based ingredient beadlets to give the body sustained nutrition over a longer period. They embody the delayed-release technology that is designed to dissolve slowly over eight hours, protecting the nutrients from the stomach acid and ensuring their proper and most effective absorption. The two-in-one capsule i.e. the capsule in capsule formula ensures a powerful dose of all nutrients, minerals and compounds with the effective absorption benefits of fast-acting oils and slow-release beadlets.

COVID has accelerated research in inhaled drug delivery

It is time to have a look at the fallout of COVID-19 on drug therapy. The incredible power of vaccines and monoclonal antibodies are among the most striking features. The vaccines protect not just against COVID-19 but shingles, hepatitis, and many other preventable diseases. Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do. The mega vaccination drive against covid worldwide has vindicated this.

Among different platforms employed for vaccine development, mRNA technology offers the greatest promise. The technology, though not new, burst onto the global scene to take on COVID-19, and this in turn, encouraged researchers to harness technology to tackle the three deadliest infectious diseases – tuberculosis, malaria and HIV.

WHO holds that technology can also be used for non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cancer.

The advantages include ease of development, adaptability to variants, scalability, stability, etc, particularly with advancements in the synthetic production of mRNA. Diversifying mRNA vaccine manufacturing capacity in different countries should be a global health priority.

COVID has accelerated research in inhaled drug delivery where lung biology interfaces with an inhaler that allows optimum delivery of drugs for specific disease management.

The potential utilisation of nanocarriers for biomimicry and/or targeted delivery of bioactives to cells is being explored to improve therapeutic outcomes.

Scientists at MIT recently have developed a capsule that can deliver 150 mcg of RNA more than mRNA used in the COVID vaccine in the stomach of pigs raising hopes of delivering RNA and DNA therapeutics orally and enhancing patient acceptance.

Lipid-based delivery should be harnessed to treat NCDs

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted lives bringing the world to a standstill. However, it also made healthcare a priority for everyone. For the pharma companies, it led to a worldwide consensus that drug delivery strategies needed to be changed significantly. Manufacturers and policymakers realised that innovations in drug delivery technologies have to be effective, affordable, accessible and available on a global scale. One of the lessons from the pandemic was how ingredients like lipids played a crucial role in vaccine delivery systems and therefore the need to focus on such technologies to ensure a robust vaccine supply chain.

Lipid-based delivery is one of the powerful, sustainable tools and should be harnessed to treat different non-communicable diseases. Drug delivery strategies and technologies developed during the pandemic can be applied to new therapeutic modalities that can be adapted to improve the delivery of older therapeutics. Industry and government should use the lessons from the pandemic to work together to advance healthcare. Last but the most important lesson we learnt is to respect, care, help, support, protect, value and appreciate life.

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