Drug-infused gel easier to swallow than pills

May 30, 2022
Drug-infused gel easier to swallow than pills

Swallowing pills or tablets can be difficult for children and some adults, a problem which researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are hoping to counter with a new drug-delivering gel made from plant-based oils. Such gels, also known as oleogels, are inexpensive and can deliver several types of medications for the treatment of infectious disease, in a variety of palatable textures.

Most importantly, the gels are stable without refrigeration, making them easier to get to patients in developing nations – it is easier to ingest the gel instead of medications that need to be dissolved in water, as clean water might not be readily available.

The researchers experimented on several types of plant-derived oils, including sesame oil (nutty flavoured), cottonseed oil (neutral-flavoured), and flaxseed oil, which was combined with edible gelling agents such as beeswax and rice bran wax to change the gels’ consistency. Some gels formed a thick texture, like a protein shake, while others ended up more yogurt- or pudding-like.

The researchers then tested the gels with infectious disease drug dosages for children: praziquantel, used to treat parasitic infections; lumefantrine, used to treat malaria; and azithromycin, used to treat bacterial infections. The gels were able to deliver adequate doses of the desired drug and remained stable at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for several weeks, and even up to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for one week (such high temperatures could be reached when drugs are transported by trucks without refrigeration).

The gels are stored and administered via a dispenser similar to a squeezable yogurt package with compartments that can be used to separate doses, which the researchers designed. This minute feature could make it easier to deliver the right dosage for each child.

MIT Mechanical Engineering professor and a gastroenterologist at BWH, Giovanni Traverso, said, “This platform will change our capacity for what we can do for kids, and for adults who have difficulty receiving medication. Given the simplicity of the system and its low cost, it could have a tremendous impact on making it easier for patients to take medications.”

The researchers expect to run a phase I clinical trial of their oleogel formulation of azithromycin at the BWH Center for Clinical Investigation within the next few months.

Category: Education, Features

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