Development of a continuous direct compression platform for low-dose drug products
In this work a continuous direct compression process was developed for a low-dosed drug product. Each unit operation of the GEA CDC-50 system was thoroughly investigated. This paper aimed to tackle the macroscopic and microscopic blend uniformity challenges inherently associated with continuous direct compression of cohesive and agglomerated APIs formulated at low dose. Density, compressibility and flow were identified as key material properties at the feeding stage. The screw speed coupled with powder flow regulated the gravimetric feeding performance. The impact of process and design variables was elucidated at the blending stage. The impeller configuration (number and pattern of radial mixing blades) and speed were key variables to steer the residence time distribution at the blending stage. An impeller configuration with distributed radial mixing blades could sufficiently filter the steady state feeding variability at low mixer speed, but exerted limited strain and shear on the blend. Hence micro-agglomerates persisted through the blending process and occasionally resulted in super potent tablets. Therefore, a new configuration was evaluated with more radial mixing blades centered on the impeller. This configuration resulted in a long mixing time at high tip speed which induced a maximized strain and shear. Consequently, excellent uniformity of the blend and tablets at macroscopic and microscopic level was achieved. Besides, this impeller improved robustness towards feeding disturbances, changes in process settings and variable blend properties. Next, it was demonstrated that the lubrication step requires critical attention during the design of the equipment, formulation and process. This study provided abundant evidence that an optimized continuous direct compression process allows direct compression of challenging low-dose drug products.