Is this the future of tablet technology?


12th March 2010

Before you swallow a tablet, or put it into a glass of water to dissolve, do you ever stop and think about how it actually works in your body and how quickly and effectively it can deliver the drug to where it is needed?

The answer will probably be no. But the way in which tablets are formulated during their production process and how they are taken by patients is a crucial part of modern pharmaceutical research.

Scientists at Aston University in Birmingham, UK have received two substantial research grants to develop new forms of drug delivery that will have a real impact on patient treatment and care and should also be more cost-effective than current drug delivery formats on the market.

The first research project, which is worth £87,059 is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It aims to extend and develop existing forms of fast disintegrating tablet technology.

The tablet remains the most widely used method of drug delivery in medicine. Fast disintegrating tablets dissolve very quickly in the mouth and do not need to be taken with water or fluid. This makes them particularly suitable for more vulnerable patients who may have trouble with movement or swallowing, for example those who have had, or are recovering from, a stroke. But current methods of fast disintegrating tablet technology can be very expensive and can produce fragile tablets that require expensive packaging when they reach the market.

Dr Afzal Mohammed, who is leading the project at Aston, explains: ‘We are aiming to further develop existing fast disintegrating tablet technology, which should enable higher drug loading in the tablets and modify drug release.  If successful, our research will have a significant impact in supporting patient care, particularly in terms of disease management amongst the elderly and the more vulnerable (for example patients who have suffered  a stroke), by reducing dose frequency, making the tablets easier to take, and improving patient compliance in taking their medicine.’

The second research project, which is worth £87,059, has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The aim is to improve current methods of drug efficiency screening and increase the total number of drug molecules that will reach the market.

The new Aston technology also has wide benefits for humane medical research. Once developed, it will reduce the number of animal experiments that need to be performed in order to ascertain the biological performance of drug molecules. 

Dr Mohammed is also leading this project. He says: ‘This research will focus on the development of a new platform technology to study in vitro in vivo correlation for drugs within the human gastro intestinal tract.

‘Development of an in vitro tool kit will also have additional benefits such as speeding up the drug efficacy screening process by creating a robust, high throughput method. As a consequence, one of the main advantages will be an increase in the total number of drug molecules that will reach the market, thereby adding value to public health programmes and a general improvement in the quality of healthcare.’

The research team are already achieving results in their research and potential new drug delivery methods could be on the market within the next two years.


Notes to editors:

For further press information or to arrange interviews, please contact Sally Finn on 0121 204 4552 or email

Find out further information about the BBSRC and the EPSRC.