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Designer medicines beat the “food factor”

Nano medsResearchers at the University of South Australia’s Ian Wark Research Institute and Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at Monash University have cracked a way to use innovative nanotechnologies to ensure disease-controlling drugs are absorbed in the body much more efficiently.

Lead researcher on the project and UniSA Professor of Colloid and Pharmaceutical Science, Dr Clive Prestidge says the research should lead to more reliable and predictable delivery of oral medications.

“Most medications need to be taken in a prescribed relationship with food – before, during or after meals – because what and when you eat, can affect the absorption and availability of the active ingredients in medicines,” Prof Prestidge said.

“And what we know about human nature is that people often don’t follow through with taking medicines in compliance with the recommendations – sometimes they even underestimate the importance of that.

“But because food can be vital to the absorption of drugs, not following the recommendations can have serious consequences both in overdosing or underdosing.”

Prof Prestidge, Dr Angel Tan and their team have just published a paper in the highly respected international journal Angewandte Chemie, reporting on their development of a new particulate structure that can deliver drugs into the body already loaded to absorb at superior levels.

Prof Prestidge says the leap forward is in developing a matrix at the nano-particulate level that can be used as tablets and in capsules, structured to imitate the food effect when inside the stomach or intestines.

He says the technology will be invaluable for a wide selection of medicines and vitamins from ibuprofen and antibiotics to anti-hypertensives and even calcium supplements.

In trials with animals the researchers have shown the benefits of the new technology. A control group of fasting animals was given medicines to establish a baseline for drug absorption then comparisons were made for absorption between a group fed food with a medication, and a group simply given the new nano-structured tablets without any food.

“The absorption levels for the active ingredient was six times higher with the nano-structured tablets, two times better than for medicines delivered with food,” Prof Prestidge said.

“This is a great result because it has such potential to improve our use of medicines, delivering safer and more effective medications.

“This technology also has huge commercial potential for the pharmaceuticals industry through the development of new medicines that are not required to be labelled “to be taken with or without food”. 

“Through the careful development of these technologies we can make the kinds of adjustments in dosages that will ensure people get the best, fastest and most efficient delivery of drugs for the control of pain and inflammation and a range of other common conditions.”

The new technological platform developed by Prof Prestidge and his team is now being commercialised through Ceridia, a spin out company developed through ITEK, the University of South Australia’s commercialisation arm.

Ceridia has relationships with major pharmaceutical companies around the world and has undertaken phase one human clinical safety trials of the technology, the first step on the road to bringing the benefits of these new developments to health consumers.

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office (08) 8302 0966 mobile 0418 823 673 email michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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