Specialty pharmaceuticals are an important component of the pharmaceutical market. They are broadly defined as drugs that
target a specific patient class to treat a particular disease. As such, the formulation and delivery method is developed to
meet those clinical needs. Zenpep (pancrelipase) Delayed-Release Capsules, a proprietary pancreatic enzyme product (PEP) trademarked
and marketed by Eurand Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Yardley, PA) is an example of a recently approved specialty pharmaceutical that
successfully addressed the challenge of maintaining stability in an enzyme product. John Fraher, chief commerical officer
of Eurand Pharmaceuticals, discusses these issues with Patricia Van Arnum, senior editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.
As an enzyme product, what were some of the formulation challenges and issues (e.g., stability, shelf life, and bioavailability)
regarding Zenpep delayed-release capsules? Can you explain how these issues were resolved with the formulation such as through
salt selection, excipient selection, dosing regime, and other forms of administration?
Zenpep, a PEP indicated for the treatment of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) due to cystic fibrosis (CF) and other
conditions, was specifically formulated to meet the US Food and Drug Administration's guidelines and regulations for the PEP
drug class. The drug is not a single enzyme product, but a mixture of digestive enzymes, principally lipase, protease, and
amylase. The stability challenges of such a complex product are considerable because the product requires the stabilization
of several enzymes and important cofactors.
The most important enzyme in terms of efficacy is lipase. Consequently, labeling is expressed in terms of lipase activity
although levels of protease and amylase also form part of the labeled content. Until very recently, PEPs in commerce had very
poor stability. To compensate for the degradation of the enzymes, and the lipase in particular, products were typically overfilled
up to 160% of label claim, and the shelf life was considered to extend until 90% of label claim remained, meaning that patients
may have consumed almost a double dose from one batch to the next without being aware of it. FDA issued an initial guidance
in 2004 on PEPs, addressing stability issues associated with unapproved enzyme therapies and the need to regulate them under
new drug applications (NDAs). The guidance stated: 'Since high doses of pancreatic enzymes have been associated with safety
problems (see 69 CFR 23411), the finished product should be formulated to 100% of the label-claimed lipase enzyme activity
This guidance presented a significant challenge to all manufacturers of PEPs. Eurand was able to leverage its formulation
technology to meet this challenge. In August 2009, Zenpep was approved by FDA and is the only FDA-approved PEP evaluated in
clinical studies in adults and children as young as one year old. Zenpep is released at 100% of label claim and has a shelf
life of a minimum of two years. To achieve this result, Eurand needed to control a number of product parameters, such that
the enzymes were effectively held in stasis but not denatured by the technology used to do this. Not only was it necessary
for this to be achieved at the point of production but also throughout the lifetime of the product, which is in a particulate
form in a capsule for oral use, not a lyophilized powder in a glass vial, as is often the case for protein therapeutics. The
first patent in a series relating to these approaches recently received a notice of allowance from the US patent office.
These formulation changes had to remain compatible with product efficacy. As stated by the FDA guidance (1): 'The bioactivity
and/or bioavailability of the active ingredients should be determined at the site of action (gastrointestinal tract). The
lipase, amylase, and protease activities should be determined from aspirates from the stomach and duodenum. The data should
be obtained under fasting conditions as well as after a standard meal stimulation.'
There is an additional challenge associated with the lipase in this product, in that it is irreversibly denatured below a
pH of about 4, meaning the product must have an effective enteric coating and that the product must be readily released in
the duodenum. Thus, the technology that was devised had not to reduce the functionality of the polymer coating in terms of
it preventing acid penetration while in the stomach and still readily releasing the enzymes on exiting the stomach. These
studies formed part of the NDA submission, and together with placebo, controlled pivotal efficacy studies clearly demonstrated
the functionality of the product and the formulation.
How is the product administered and why was this route chosen?
Zenpep is the only FDA-approved PEP offered in four dosage strengths: 5000, 10,000, 15,000, and 20,000 units of lipase to
allow for precise dosing and for potentially reduced pill burden and to meet the varied needs of infants, toddlers, adolescents,
and adults with EPI.
Zenpep is a hard-shell capsule containing an enterically coated multiparticulate. This dosing format was chosen because it
allows the capsule to be opened, and the particles to be sprinkled on soft foods with some natural acidity such as applesauce
and banana pudding to address the needs of patients who may have difficulty swallowing capsules such as pediatric patients
or certain older patients. The capsule can also be swallowed whole of course. Thus, both options are available to address
the varied needs of patients suffering from EPI.
Can you provide an update on the approval status of Zenpep in other regulatory jurisdictions?
In addition to the launch of Zenpep in the United States, there have been a number of additional developments within the
past year. In April 2008, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed that a marketing application for EUR-1008 (Zenpep)
was eligible for community (centralized) marketing authorization submission in the European Union. This eligibility was granted
under Article 3(2)b of regulation EC No. 726/2004, which relates to products that offer a significant technological innovation.
Subsequently, Eurand filed a marketing authorization application through a centralized procedure, the approval of which would
allow market access to 27 EU member states.
Additionally, in October 2009, EMA adopted new guidelines for PEP products, specifically stating that 'any PEP [pancreatic
enzyme product] should be formulated to 100% of the label-claimed lipase enzyme activity' (2). As referenced earlier, every
dose of Zenpep provides patients and physicians with the main pancreatic enzymes: lipase, protease, and amylase. This formulation,
with 100% labeled lipase content and without overage, allows healthcare professionals to fine-tune treatment regimens to achieve
And in November 2009, Eurand announced data from a Phase II/III clinical study demonstrating that Zenpep delayed-release capsules
significantly improve fat absorption in patients with EPI due to chronic pancreatitis.
1. FDA, Guidance for Industry; Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency Drug Products—Submitting NDAs (Rockville, MD, April 2006).
2. EMA Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, Guideline on the Clinical Development of Medicinal Products for the Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis (London, Oct. 22, 2009).