Improved tabletability after a polymorphic transition of delta-mannitol during twin screw granulation

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Graphical abstractIn most formulations processed via continuous twin screw granulation microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) and/or lactose are used as excipients, but mannitol is also a preferred excipient for wet granulation and tableting due to its non-hygroscopicity and inertness. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to investigate the influence of process parameters on critical quality attributes of granules (moisture content, solid state, morphology, size distribution, specific surface area, friability, flowability and hygroscopicity) and tablets (tensile strength and friability) after twin screw granulation of δ-mannitol. The δ-polymorph was selected since a moisture-induced transformation to β-mannitol was observed during batch wet granulation, which exhibited a unique morphology with a large surface area and improved tabletability. A full factorial experimental design was performed, varying screw speed (400–900 rpm), granulation temperature (25–40 °C), number of kneading elements (6 or 12) and liquid-to-solid (L/S) ratio, on the granulation unit of a ConsiGma™-25 line (a continuous powder-to-tablet manufacturing system). After tray drying the granules were milled and tableted. The results showed that the polymorphic transition from δ- to β-mannitol also occurred during twin screw granulation, although the residence time and L/S ratios were much lower in continuous twin screw granulation compared to batch processing. However, the polymorphic transition was not complete in all experiments and depended on the L/S ratio, screw speed and number of kneading elements. Nevertheless all granules exhibited the unique morphology linked to the polymorphic transition and had a superior tabletability compared to granules produced with β-mannitol as starting material. This was attributed to enhanced plastic deformation of the granules manufactured using δ-mannitol as starting material. In addition, it was concluded that mannitol was granulated via a different mechanism than other, less-soluble, excipients (e.g. lactose, microcrystalline cellulose) due to its high solubility and dissolution rate as the influence of process parameters on the mannitol granule characteristics was different.

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