An industrial perspective on the design and development of medicines for older patients

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An increasing elderly population is leading to a change in the global demographics. This presents a new challenge to society and the pharmaceutical industry. This demographic shift is providing an opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to meet the specific needs of the changing patient population. One issue that has been identified is defining what is meant by “an older patient”, since this definition cannot be simply limited to chronological age. The fundamental purpose of the design and development process is to create a product that can be used by the patient group in a safe and efficacious manner. In the pharmaceutical industry ICH Q8 is used to guide the design and development of medicines. The process leads to the definition of the Quality Target Product Profile (QTPP) for a specific drug product and patient population. One can imagine a product with various presentations described in the QTPP which suit paediatrics, adults and older patients. It is recognised that designing medicines for smaller population groups will result in multiple presentations that could lead to smaller manufacturing batch sizes. In the short to medium term; dose flexibility, easy-to-swallow formulations, and easier access packaging are all factors under consideration. Dose flexibility could be achieved with various dosage forms such as oral liquids, mini-tablets, or multi-particulates. Whilst patient dosage preferences are beginning to be understood, further investigation is needed to balance the needs of the patient, care giver, prescriber, and payer. There also remain a number of challenges with the engineering solutions and delivery device for mini-tablets and multi-particulates (aside from filled capsules) to accurately and robustly deliver the dose, and issues with handling the device and the packaging for an older patient. It is also recognised that there are numerous challenges, not least of which is the definition of the older patient and a generic QTPP for an older patients’ drug product. It is likely that there will be no simple solution or ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in drug product development to resolve the complex issues presented by the ageing population.

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