Oral drug delivery is often challenged with enzymatic degradation of drug molecules in the gastrointestinal tract and high first-pass metabolism, resulting in low bioavailability. Delivery of drug molecules via the oral cavity mucosa is considered a viable option to enhance bioavailability. One of the relatively new dosage forms for transmucosal drug delivery is the oral thin film (OTF) with mucoadhesive properties that offer several advantages over conventional dosage forms, including faster dissolution, higher patient compliance, and extended oral retention by reduced salivary washout. Mucoadhesive OTFs should have sufficient muco-adhesiveness as well as suitable mechanical properties for their best performance, thus such characterization is critical in the successful design and development of OTFs. However, there is currently no FDA or USP recommended analytical procedure or standard available for evaluating adhesiveness and mechanical properties of mucoadhesive OTFs. Therefore, we aimed to develop a fast and reliable in vitro method capable of differentiating various OTFs in terms of their adhesive strengths using a texture analyzer. We found that an in vitro gel substrate composed of 4% w/v gellan gum and 2% w/v glycerin could be used to discriminate between the adhesive features of the tested film samples. Also, our studies show that the adhesion test parameters of 0.96 N target force, probe speed of 0.5 mm/s, holding time of 15 sec, and conditioning medium volume of 200 μL while using the said substrate could successfully differentiate between the adhesion strength of the OTF samples. We further examined the film samples for their physicomechanical properties to obtain a tangible and practical range of mechanical values for pharmaceutical OTFs using the puncture test and folding endurance test. We found a breaking factor above 34.5 N/mm, elongation to puncture less than 5.55% and folding endurance of at least 50 folds can be used as a starting point when designing and manufacturing OTFs.
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