Non-invasive screening method reveals important properties of pharmaceutical tablets

Information on significant properties of pharmaceutical tablets, such as their mechanical strength and dissolution, can now be obtained without resorting to the conventional, time-consuming and destructive testing methods, according to a new study completed at the University of Eastern Finland. A new structural descriptive parameter based on terahertz (THz) time-domain techniques allow for a non-invasive detection of pharmaceutical tablet parameters, constituting a research breakthrough in the field of pharmacy.  

The study focused on non-contact quality inspection of pharmaceutical tablets using terahertz time-domain techniques. Terahertz radiation represents the far end of the infrared band and it has unique properties that permit a quick and safe identification of pharmaceutical tablet properties. Using THz radiation, which is invisible and safe for human beings, it is possible to determine what a tablet is made of, including the nature of its constituents and how they are arranged. To this effect, the study has developed a novel structural descriptive parameter for pharmaceutical tablets, addressing the orientation of their microscopic structure. The parameter provides information on the pattern of arrangement of the various particulates as well as air pores within a tablet.

This fast and non-destructive screening method has significant applications in the inspection of the quality of individual tablets during production, providing information on the amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient, tablet porosity and weight, among other things. Another important application is that this method can detect counterfeit and substandard tablets (for example fake antimalarial tablets) flooding the markets in developing countries, where counterfeit drugs are a major cause of mortality.  

The parameter constitutes a research breakthrough in the field of pharmacy, as in-depth understanding of its behaviour gives information on, e.g., the mechanical strength, content uniformity and dissolution of pharmaceutical tablets.

By utilising training sets of pharmaceutical tablets, scientists at the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with scientists at the University of Cambridge, UK, and in Switzerland have successfully demonstrated the ability to non-invasively detect the porosity, weight and height of tablets. Based on these promising results, the researchers believe that an alternative non-destructive approach for quality screening of tablets can, in the future, replace the conventional destructive techniques such as mercury intrusion porosimetry. Hence, pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists can now screen individual tablets even in the production line.

Since the majority (about 80%) of administered drugs are tablets, there is a significant need for a process analytical technology (PAT) tool that will permit the screening of individual pharmaceutical tablets before they reach end users. The methods were presented by Prince Bawuah , MSc, in his doctoral dissertation, and the findings were originally published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics , European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics and Optical Review . The findings serve not only the pharmaceutical industry, but also pharmaceutical research.

The doctoral dissertation by Prince Bawuah, MSc, entitled Terahertz time-domain study on selected parameters of pharmaceutical tablets using effective medium approximation is available for download at: http://epublications.uef.fi/pub/urn_isbn_978-952-61-2311-0/urn_isbn_978-952-61-2311-0.pdf

For further information, please contact:
Early-Stage Researcher Prince Bawuah
, tel. +358 44 237 4671, prince.bawuah@uef.fi  

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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.

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