June 14, 2024

Oral Thin Films – An Innovative Drug Delivery System

Thin film technology is revolutionizing the delivery of drugs and medicines. Oral thin films, also known as oral dissolvable films or oral soluble films, provide an innovative means of delivering drugs for oral administration. These films are designed to dissolve rapidly in the mouth, enabling drug absorption via the oral cavity. With benefits like fast onset of action, flexibility, and patient acceptability, oral thin films are emerging as an attractive alternative to traditional delivery forms like tablets and capsules.

What are Oral Thin Films?
Oral thin films are wafer-like polymeric films, usually no more than 0.2 mm in thickness. They are designed to rapidly disintegrate in the mouth within a few seconds, releasing the encapsulated drug that gets absorbed directly via the oral mucosa. Being thin and flexile, these films adhere easily to the buccal or sublingual sites, thus avoiding the first pass effect through the liver. This enables effective absorption of drugs through the oral mucosa into the systemic circulation.

Advantages of Oral Thin Films
Compared to other oral dosage forms, thin films offer several advantages:

Fast absorption and onset of action: Due to direct absorption through the oral mucosa, drugs delivered via oral thin films show a rapid absorption rate and onset of therapeutic effects within 5-15 minutes.

Convenience: Being lightweight, portable and compact, thin films can be easily carried and administered without water, unlike tablets and capsules. This makes them very convenient for pediatric, geriatric patients and those unable to swallow.

Flexibility: Oral thin films are packaged in blister packs or aluminum pouches, similar to decorative stickers, making them more flexible than rigid dosage forms. This flexibility facilitates easy handling and storage.

Patient acceptability: Oral thin films have a pleasant taste masking effect and are not gritty or sandy in texture unlike chewable tablets. Patients, especially children, find them more appealing and tolerable.

Improved stability: The thin polymeric matrix used for film preparation protects incorporated drugs from degradation by enzymatic hydrolysis and moisture. This lends better stability than liquid or chewable formulations.

Applications in Multiple Therapy Areas
The unique attributes of oral thin films have enabled their applications across various therapeutic areas:

CNS drugs: Thin films are used extensively to administer neurologics like analgesics, anti-migraine drugs, sedatives and anti-Parkinson drugs. Rapid absorption through the oral mucosa delivers quick relief.

Allergy & cough medications: Decongestants, antihistamines and antitussives are effectively delivered via oral films to provide fast symptomatic relief during allergic reactions and cough/cold.

Nutraceuticals: Multivitamins, dietary supplements, nutraceutical extracts are incorporated in oral films for enhanced absorption and compliance in functional foods applications.

Pediatric medications: Bitter tasting drugs for pediatric indications like diarrhea, fever, pain etc. are elegantly masked using flavored thin films appealing to children.

Emergency medications: Oral films are stocked in first-aid kits and emergency boxes for self-administration of naloxone, ondansetron during opioid overdose or motion sickness crises.

Technology Innovations
Numerous technological innovations are enabling new product development and commercialization of oral thin films:

– Laser-cut thin films provide consistent thickness, shape and size precision for improved dosing accuracy.

– Printed films with active ingredients incorporated only in selective, pre-defined areas facilitate complex multi-drug combinations.

– Rapid dissolving polymer matrices are designed for controlled drug release profiles over an extended period of 8-12 hours.

– Bi-layer and mucoadhesive films utilizing polymers like HPMC, PVA, PVP ensure local drug retention in the oral cavity.

– Functional printed circuits on films enable future connectivity with mobile health applications for monitoring medication adherence.

Market Potential
With key advantages over conventional dosage forms, the global oral thin film drug delivery market is projected to grow at an impressive CAGR during 2021-2028. Continuous technology advancements and new product approvals are further augmenting market growth. Major global companies are actively developing thin film-based formulations to leverage the widespread clinical potential of this innovative platform across diverse therapeutic areas. Oral thin films are surely poised to transform drug delivery and medication practices worldwide.

In summary, oral thin films provide clinicians and patients an elegant alternative for effective and convenient administration of many drugs. With rapid disintegration, absorption and onset of action, these intelligent dosage forms remedy limitations of traditional oral solid formulations. Advanced printing and material technologies are creating multifaceted opportunities to expand the thin film platform to new drug entities and medical applications. Wider acceptance and adoption of this disruptive drug delivery system is thus imminent in the therapy landscape.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it