Many new drugs exhibit poor wetting behaviour and low aqueous solubility. This is particularly an issue for preclinical studies like toxicological trials, in which considerably higher doses and volumes are being administered compared to clinical studies. Preclinical vehicles typically contain high levels of surfactants that can exert biological effects. However, the biological inertness of vehicles is pivotal for the application in preclinical studies stressing the need in finding new excipients to solve formulation problems of today's drug discovery. The present study investigated the technical feasibility of surfactant-free suspensions using a new poorly soluble drug as model. It was shown that octenyl succinate-modified starches adequately wetted the drug and homogenous tasteless suspensions were obtained. The polymer xanthan gum was identified as macroscopically compatible gelling agent. Concentration effects of xanthan, drug and different modified starches were studied in a D-optimal design with respect to rheological properties. The suspensions were also tested in an analytical centrifuge using NIR transmission profiles to obtain a measure of sedimentation stability under accelerated conditions. The modified starches exhibited only little influence on the viscosity as well as on the yield point in contrast to the rheological effects of xanthan gum. This gelling agent was the main stabilising excipient as the modified starches hindered to a lesser extent sedimentation. The most stable suspensions displayed convenient flow properties. The viscosity at 100 s−1 and 25 °C was in technically acceptable range of 120–140 mPa s in view of a application via gavage or a syringe in animal studies.
The results demonstrated that surfactant-free drug suspensions with excellent technical performance can be obtained using octenyl succinate-modified starches. The vehicles were tasteless and based on the experience of modified starches in the food industry, the vehicles should exhibit good tolerability. The future use of such surfactant-free drug suspensions in toxicological, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies will have to determine their advantage in terms of biological inertness.