Continuous direct compression as manufacturing platform for sustained release tablets
This study presents a framework for process and product development on a continuous direct compression manufacturing platform. A challenging sustained release formulation with high content of a poorly flowing low density drug was selected. Two HPMC grades were evaluated as matrix former: standard Methocel CR and directly compressible Methocel DC2. The feeding behavior of each formulation component was investigated by deriving feed factor profiles. The maximum feed factor was used to estimate the drive command and depended strongly upon the density of the material. Furthermore, the shape of the feed factor profile allowed definition of a customized refill regime for each material. Inline NIRs was used to estimate the residence time distribution (RTD) in the mixer and monitor blend uniformity. Tablet content and weight variability were determined as additional measures of mixing performance. For Methocel CR, the best axial mixing (i.e. feeder fluctuation dampening) was achieved when an impeller with high number of radial mixing blades operated at low speed. However, the variability in tablet weight and content uniformity deteriorated under this condition. One can therefore conclude that balancing axial mixing with tablet quality is critical for Methocel CR. However, reformulating with the direct compressible Methocel DC2 as matrix former improved tablet quality vastly. Furthermore, both process and product were significantly more robust to changes in process and design variables. This observation underpins the importance of flowability during continuous blending and die-filling. At the compaction stage, blends with Methocel CR showed better tabletability driven by a higher compressibility as the smaller CR particles have a higher bonding area. However, tablets of similar strength were achieved using Methocel DC2 by targeting equal porosity. Compaction pressure impacted tablet properties and dissolution. Hence controlling thickness during continuous manufacturing of sustained release tablets was crucial to ensure reproducible dissolution.