Amorphous Formulation and in Vitro Performance Testing of Instantly Disintegrating Buccal Tablets for the Emergency Delivery of Naloxone

Abdulmalik Alqurshi, Zahrae Kumar, Rebecca McDonald, John Strang, Asma Buanz, Shagufta Ahmed, Elizabeth Allen, Peter Cameron, James A. Rickard, Verity Sandhu, Chris Holt, Rebecca Stansfield, David Taylor, Ben Forbes, Paul G. Royall

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The aim of this study was to develop a freeze-dried buccal tablet for the rapid delivery of naloxone in opioid overdose. The tablet composition was optimized to produce an amorphous matrix, which was confirmed by the absence of peaks associated with crystallinity observed by differential scanning calorimetry and powder X-ray diffraction. Tablets with high gelatin content lacked adequate porosity. Mannitol was added to the formulation to bridge and intercalate gelatin’s tight polymer aggregates, however sodium bicarbonate was also required to prevent crystallization within the tablets. A linear reduction in mannitol’s recrystallization enthalpy was observed with increasing sodium bicarbonate concentration (ΔrecryH = −20.3[NaHCO3] + 220.9; r2 = 0.9, n = 18). The minimum sodium bicarbonate concentration for full inhibition of mannitol crystallization was 10.9% w/w. Freeze-dried tablets with lower amounts of sodium bicarbonate possessed a crystalline fraction that PXRD identified as mannitol hemihydrate from the unique peak at 9.7° 2θ. Mannitol’s greater affinity for both ions and residual water rather than its affinity for self-association was the mechanism for the inhibition of crystallization observed here. The optimized tablet (composition mannitol 24% w/w (4.26 mg), gelatin 65% w/w (11.7 mg), sodium bicarbonate 11% w/w (1.98 mg), and naloxone 800 μg) formed predominantly amorphous tablets that disintegrated in less than 10 s. Optimized tablets were chemically and physically stable over 9 months storage at 25 °C. As speed of drug liberation is the critical performance attribute for a solid dosage form designed to deliver drug in an emergency, a novel imaging based in vitro disintegration assay for buccal tablets was developed. The assay was optimized with regard to conditions in the buccal cavity: i.e., temperature 33–37 °C, volume of medium (0.1–0.7 mL), and use of mucin-containing biorelevant medium. The disintegration assay was sensitive to temperature, medium volume, and medium composition; naloxone tablet disintegration was extremely rapid, with full disintegration ranging from 5 to 20 s. In conclusion, rapidly disintegrating tablets have been developed which are suitable for proof-of-concept clinical trial in humans to determine the pharmacokinetics of naloxone delivered via the buccal route.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1688-1698
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number5
Early online date16 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • amorphous
  • instant disintegrating tablets
  • naloxone
  • inhibition of crystallisation
  • buccal delivery
  • buccal disintegration assay
  • freeze-dried


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