Limited drug solubility can be decisive even for freely soluble drugs in highly swollen matrix tablets
The aim of this study was to elucidate the importance of potential limited solubility effects for the control of drug release from hydrophilic matrix tablets loaded with a freely water-soluble drug. It is often assumed that the considerable amounts of water penetrating into this type of advanced drug delivery systems are sufficient to rapidly dissolve the entire drug loading, and that limited drug solubility is not playing a role for the control of drug release. Here, we show that this assumption can be erroneous. HPMC/lactose matrix tablets were loaded with 5 to 60% diprophylline (e.g. solubility in 0.1 M HCl at 37 °C: 235 mg/mL), and drug release was measured at low and neutral pH, respectively. A mechanistically realistic mathematical theory was applied, considering drug diffusion in axial and radial direction in the cylindrical matrices and the potential co-existence of dissolved and non-dissolved drug. Importantly, only dissolved drug is available for diffusion. It is demonstrated that during major parts of the release periods, non-dissolved drug excess exists within tablets containing 30% or more diprophylline, despite of the substantial water contents of the systems. This leads to partially almost linear drug concentration distance profiles within the tablets, and reveals a major contribution of limited drug solubility effects to the control of drug release, even in the case of freely water-soluble diprophylline. It can be expected that also in other types of drug delivery systems, e.g. microparticles and implants (containing much less water), limited drug solubility effects play a much more important role than currently recognized.