Tablet manufacturing process

When we have a headache we open the medicine cabinet at home, take a tablet out of its blister pack, take it and wait for it to work its magic. What we normally don’t ask ourselves is how has this tablet become the solution to our problems?

In all pharmaceutical forms, the dose of active ingredient is so small that it makes manipulation impossible. For this reason, excipients are added to increase its volume. Converting this mixture of active ingredient and excipients into tablets is a safe way to administer the correct dose in a comfortable way for the patient. Now, how do we get the tablet to compress? Compressing, right? It’s not so simple. The properties of each powdered solid are different and it is not easy for its particles to stay together simply by applying pressure to them. And, if it compresses, how do we ensure that it disintegrates in the right place and at the right time to carry out its therapeutic action correctly? It is to resolve all those issues that other excipients come into play whose functions are to bind, improve fluidity, lubricate, disintegrate,…

The first step in the manufacture of tablets is to mix the active ingredient with all the required excipients. And after that? At best, although rare, it can be compressed directly. Now, most of the time a prior process called granulation is required to ensure that the mixture has the appropriate fluidity to be able to manipulate and dose it and that once compressed it maintains its shape.

The granulation process, as its name suggests, consists of converting the powder into a granule that has a uniform particle size and composition and, at the same time, is suitable for compression. It can be carried out by passing the mixture through rollers that exert pressure on it and then breaking the compaction that is formed. This procedure is called dry granulation and is carried out with a compactor. On the contrary, if a liquid binder is used to form the granules, we would speak of wet granulation. Wet granulation consists of a first step in which the binder is sprayed onto the powder mixture and it is stirred until granules are formed. Next, a drying phase will be necessary prior to compression. A wet granulation line can have different configurations, the most common being an HSM mixer for granulating, followed by a fluid bed where drying takes place.

In the compression phase, the different stations of the tablet press are filled with granules and the tablets are generated with the action of the punches. The force with which the mixture is compacted is a critical parameter to ensure that the tablet disintegrates and releases its active ingredient at the appropriate point.

Once the tablet is generated, a coating film can be applied. This phase may have an aesthetic purpose such as giving it color, an organoleptic purpose such as hiding a bad taste, or a therapeutic purpose such as preventing the tablet from disintegrating with the acidic environment of the stomach, forcing the release of the active ingredient in the intestine. This procedure is performed in a coating drum where the tablets rotate while being sprayed with the coating solution while being dried with a stream of hot air.

Thus, only after having gone through the different stages of mixing, granulation, compression and coating and thanks to the function of the excipients, the tablets can be packaged and packaged to end up in our home medicine cabinet and put an end to our headache. .

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