That summarizes a promising new drug-making technique designed
to reduce serious allergic reactions and other side effects from
anti-cancer medicine, testosterone and other drugs that are
administered with a needle.
The innovative process removes potentially harmful
additives—primarily soapy substances known as
surfactants—from common injectable drugs. The breakthrough is
described in a study, “Therapeutic Surfactant-Stripped Frozen
Miscelles,” published in Nature Communications.
“We’re excited because this process can be scaled
up, which could make existing injectable drugs safer and more
effective for millions of people suffering from serious diseases
and ailments,” said Jonathan F. Lovell, assistant professor
of biomedical engineering and the study’s corresponding
Pharmaceutical companies use surfactants to dissolve medicine
into a liquid solution, a process that makes medicine suitable for
injection. While effective, the process is seldom efficient.
Solutions loaded with surfactant and other nonessential ingredients
can carry the risk of causing anaphylactic shock, blood clotting,
hemolysis and other side effects.
Researchers have tried to address this problem in two ways, each
with varying degrees of success.
Some have taken the so-called “top down” approach,
in which they shrink drug particles to nanoscale sizes to eliminate
excess additives. While promising, the method doesn’t work
well in injectable medicine because the drug particles are still
too large to safely inject.
Other researchers work from the “bottom up,” using
nanotechnology to build new drugs from scratch. This may yield
tremendous results; however, developing new drug formulations takes
years, and drugs are coupled with new additives that create new
The technique under development at UB differs because it
improves existing injectable drug-making methods by taking the
unusual step of stripping away all of the excess surfactant.
In laboratory experiments, researchers dissolved 12 drugs, one
at a time, into a surfactant called Pluronic. The dissolved drugs
included cabazitaxel, an anti-cancer drug; testosterone; and
cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant used during organ
Then, by lowering the solution’s temperature to 4 degrees
Celsius (most drugs are made at room temperature), they were able
to remove excess Pluronic via a membrane, resulting in drugs that
contain 100 to 1,000 times less excess additives.
“For the drugs we looked at, this is as close as anyone
has gotten to introducing pure, injectable medicine into the
body,” said Lovell. “Essentially, it’s a new way
to package drugs.”
The findings are significant, he says, because they show that
many injectable drug formulations may be improved through an
easy-to-adopt process. Future experiments are planned to further
refine the method, Lovell said.
The research is supported by a National Institutes of Health