Improving the solubility of poorly soluble drugs is an ongoing challenge. Dispersing a poorly soluble compound in a polymeric
matrix to improve solubility and therefore bioavailability is one strategy. To produce the solid solutions or solid dispersions,
various methods can be used, such as hot-melt extrusion, spray-drying, melt congelation, and nanocrystal technology (1).
Veloxis Pharmaceuticals (formerly called LifeCycle Pharma), a technology spinoff from the Danish pharmaceutical company H.
Lundbeck, uses a proprietary process, MeltDose, based on controlled agglomeration, to address the problem of poorly soluble
"Several technologies have been launched to deal with poorly soluble drugs," explains Peter Nielsen, executive vice-president
of pharmaceutical development and CMC at Veloxis Pharmaceuticals. "Some technologies manipulate the particle size of the active
pharmaceutical ingredient (API), and others influence dissolution rate. We see MeltDose as a technology that achieves all
these improvements within the same technology."
Nielsen explains the company's approach. A low water-soluble drug substance is dissolved in a vehicle system that is optimized
for each drug substance. The drug substance is spray-dried on an inert particulate carrier using fluid-bed equipment and solidified
when disposed on the carrier. The carrier captures the active drug in a nanocrystalline or microcrystalline state or as an
amorphous solid dispersion. This step is followed by agglomeration that is controlled by optimizing temperature and feed rate
to produce the granules, which are directly compressed into tablets. Once in tablet form, the dissolution profile and particle
size remain stable.
The selection of the vehicle to match the physiochemical properties of the API is an important consideration in the process.
"In some formulations, the API will be present as an amorphous solid dispersion, such as in hot-melt extrusion and spray drying,
but in other formulations, the API will be present as crystals in nanometer or micrometer size, resembling nanoproducts more,"
MeltDose, the proprietary process that Veloxis Pharmaceuticals has developed, centers on the controlled agglomeration process.
"The controlled agglomeration process has some similarities to fluid-bed granulation," says Nielsen. Controlled agglomeration
involves placing solid carrier particles in a conventional fluid bed, unto which a liquefied vehicle containing the API is
sprayed. When the liquid vehicle is cooled down on the carrier, it agglomerates and forms granules. The controlled agglomeration
process is water-free, and in contrast to conventional fluid-bed granulation, uses liquefied (i.e., melted) polymers as the
polymeric vehicle. The polymeric vehicle is melted in a specially designed heated melt unit that controls temperature and
pressure of the melted vehicle, which passes from the melt unit to a specially designed spray nozzle in the fluid bed, say
Nielsen. The produced granules are compressed to tablets using conventional tablet presses.
The polymer vehicles used in the MeltDose process can include a range of hydrophilic and lipophilic materials and are selected
for their solubility-enhancing properties and compatibility with subsequent processing steps. Examples of vehicle systems
are solid or semisolid polymers with a melting point between 40 and 80 °C, such as polyethylene glycol 6000, poloxamers, and
various types of gelucires. The resulting granule size varies with the choice of excipients and lies typically in the range
of 200 to 500 μm, says Nielsen.
The vehicle temperature, the spray rate, the atomizing air volume, and product temperature all are important process parameters
to consider during the controlled agglomeration step. Also, the addition of different surfactants can result in different
sizes of API crystals in the granule (2).
Fenofibrate, a lipid-regulating agent to control cholesterol and marketed as Fenoglide in the United States by Shore Therapeutics,
was the first product approved in the US using the MeltDose technology. Fenofibrate was initially approved by FDA in 1993
and later developed by Veloxis Pharmaceuticals using the MeltDose process in the formulation. Veloxis Pharmaceuticals received
FDA approval for Fenoglide to treat hyperlipidemia and mixed dyslipidemia and hypertriglyceridemia in 2007. Sciele Pharma
commercialized the product in the US and was subsequently acquired by Shionogi in 2008. In 2010, Shionogi Pharma terminated
its Fenoglide North American commercialization agreement with Veloxis Pharmaceuticals, transferring commercial rights to Shore
Veloxis Pharmaceuticals is working on other formulations that use the MeltDose process. The company has developed a once-daily
modified-release formulation of tacrolimus, a poorly soluble compound with a water solubility of 4–12 μg/m, and the same API
as in Astellas's Prograf, an immunosuppression drug used in kidney and liver transplants. Veloxis Pharmaceuticals has developed
an amorphous solid-dispersion formulation of tacrolimus. The API was dissolved in a melted vehicle at elevated temperature.
The solution was sprayed onto an inert carrier in a fluid bed. The resulting granulate was blended with a disintegrant and
lubricant and compressed into tablets. The modified-release tablet formulation using the MeltDose technology was developed
and tested in humans and is currently in late Phase III testing for the prevention of organ rejection with kidney transplants.
Veloxis Pharmaceuticals expects to file for regulatory approval for the product, LCP-Tacro, in the US and European Union in
the first quarter of 2013.
Editor's note: LifeCycle Pharma changed its name to Veloxis Pharmaceuticals, effective July 7, 2011, and the name used in
this article was subsequently updated.
1. P. Van Arnum, Pharm. Technol. 32 (7), 96–98 (2007).
2. J.Q. Thomassen and P. Holm, "Controlling Fenofibrate Crystal Size in a Solid Dispersion Using MeltDose," presented at the
Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery Symposium, Toronto, Nov. 2008.