Current Trends and Challenges in the Excipients Market - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Current Trends and Challenges in the Excipients Market

Pharmaceutical Technology

Excipients can enable enhanced drug effectiveness in important ways. They already are used to control the drug's absorption into the body. Disintegrants, for example, allow the tablet to break up into particles that are small enough to enter blood vessels. Excipients can perform many other functions such as improving the safety, stability, and storage of medicines. So, it is no surprise that excipients are becoming a more important aspect in tablet manufacture than they were previously and are even helping innovate drug formulations.

Present and future markets

Excipient production is overwhelmingly based in North America and Europe. These two regions currently account for more than 75% of the market, according to a Frost and Sullivan study (3). Demand is likely to increase as further innovations take hold and excipients are adapted for more uses.

While the European and North American markets are anticipated to continue growing during the next five years, both China and India will be in a position to enter the market during this time. The ability of both countries to combine low-cost manufacturing capability without compromising on quality will certainly have a significant effect on the established markets.


Excipients historically have been overlooked by many in the pharmaceutical industry in favor of active ingredients. In the light of the challenges from generics producers, falling revenues, and the decline of the blockbuster drugs as big revenue generators, however, excipients offer many opportunities to meet some of these challenges. In particular, excipients can be used to cut drug-development costs without adversely affecting the quality of the products.

The line between active ingredients and excipients has therefore become more blurred as the latter increasingly are coming to be seen as functional materials rather than inactive bulking agents. New developments such as the use of natural starch-based products, biotechnological research, and the use of nanotechnology to manipulate small molecules all mean that the range and uses for excipients are likely to increase. Examples in recent years include using mannitol in oral-dispersal tablets and speciality starch grades for slow-release applications.

Excipients' functional characteristics and increasing attractiveness to Big Pharma for cost-reduction reasons make it likely that market conditions for excipients will remain promising for the next few years.

James Taylor is category leader at Cargill Pharma and Personal Care, Bedrijvenlaan, 9, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium, tel. 132 0 15 400 508, fax 132 0 15 400 591,


1. "Combating Generics: Pharmaceutical Brand Defense," Cutting Edge Information (Research Triangle Park, NC, 2006), accessed Sept. 7, 2006.

2. "IPEC Europe News," International Pharmaceutical Excipients Council-Europe (Nov. 2005),, accessed Sept. 7, 2006.

3. "Strategic Analysis of Pharmaceutical Excipients Market in Europe," Frost & Sullivan (San Antonio, TX, May 12, 2005) pag, accessed Sept. 7, 2006.


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