Mini-tablets versus pellets as promising multiparticulate modified release delivery systems for highly soluble drugs

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Whether mini-tablets (tablets, diameters ≤6 mm) belong to single- or multiple-unit dosage forms is still questionable. Accordingly, Pharmacopoeial evaluation procedures for mini-tablets are lacking. In this study, the aforementioned points were discussed. Moreover, their potential for oral controlled delivery was assessed. The antidepressant venlafaxine hydrochloride (Vx), a highly soluble drug undergoing first pass effect, low bioavailability and short half-life was selected as a challenging payload. In an attempt to weigh up mini-tablets versus pellets as multiparticulate carriers, Vx-loaded mini-tablets were compared to formulated pellets of the same composition and the innovator Effexor®XR pellets.Formulations were prepared using various polymer hydrogels in the core and ethyl cellulose film coating with increasing thickness. Mini-tablets (diameter 2 mm) showed extended Vx release (<60%, 8 h). Indeed, release profiles comparable to Effexor®XR pellets were obtained. Remarkably higher coating thickness was required for pellets to provide equivalent retardation. Ethyl cellulose in the core ensured faster release due to polymer migration to the surface and pore formation in the coat. mini-tablets showed higher stability to pellets upon storage. Industrially speaking, mini-tablets proved to be superior to pellets in terms of manufacturing, product quality and economical aspects. Results point out the urgent need for standardized evaluation procedures for mini-tablets.

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