4 Ways Mucoadhesion Can Benefit Drug Products

Posted by LLS Health Technical Team on 07/21/2021

What is mucoadhesion?

A key factor in the success and effectiveness of many drug products is whether or not they are “mucoadhesive”. 

Mucoadhesion describes the attractive forces between a material and mucus or a mucous membrane. Mucus and mucous membranes are found in multiple areas of the human body, from the mouth, throat, and nasal cavity, to parts of the eyes, rectum or vagina. For formulations intended to target these areas, developing the mucoadhesive properties of a drug product is beneficial for effective drug delivery. 

In this blog, we will explore four key ways mucoadhesion, when optimized, can improve over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription (Rx) drug products. 

#1 Holds dosage form at the site of action for longer 

Mucoadhesion allows the drug formulation to be applied directly to the target site and remain there for a longer period than can be achieved with a non-mucoadhesive formulation.  This enhances drug delivery and/or prolongs drug action for both localized (dosage form at site of action) or systemic (dosage form at absorption site) delivery.

#2 Lubricates the target tissue 

Though undoubtedly a significant benefit, mucoadhesion can do more than allow prolonged localized drug delivery. Mucoadhesive properties can enable a formulation to coat a mucous membrane, providing a lubricating cover for the tissue. This can be beneficial for many products, such as mouthwash for dry mouth or artificial tears for dry eye.

Figure 1: 4 Ways Mucoadhesion Can Benefit Drug Products

4 Ways Mucoadhesion Can Benefit Drug Products

#3 Provides a protective covering over damaged tissue

On the same note as coating tissue for lubrication, Mucoadhesive coatings can also provide a shield for damaged or sensitive tissue. This keeps the tissue isolated from harsh surroundings that can cause pain or delay healing. 

For example, mucoadhesion can optimize a canker sore cover, allowing the product to adhere to the lesion, protecting it from bacterial infection or contact with saliva or acidic foods. In doing so, it can increase comfort for patients and promote faster healing. 

#4 Enables more convenient, non-invasive products 

Mucoadhesion can benefit a wide variety of dosage forms, for use on or in numerous areas of the body, enabling localized, targeted drug delivery. Because of this localized delivery, mucoadhesion enables the creation of non-invasive, more convenient dosage forms that would otherwise not be effective. 

For example, without mucoadhesive properties, a topical mucosal product – which is easy to apply, convenient, and non-invasive - may not deliver enough drug effectively to be viable in the market. Therefore, a formulator may instead be forced to switch to creating an oral or injectable product, which can have negative implications for patients. Oral products go through the gastrointestinal tract, which can irritate the stomach or have other negative implications. Injectable products can be painful and inconvenient, as they can often only be administered by a medical professional. 

However, if mucoadhesion is effectively formulated into a drug product, patient-preferred dosage forms can be successfully developed, for example:

  • Topical gels and emulsions
  • Patches and films 
  • Oral solutions and suspensions
  • Eye drops or contact lenses  
  • Nasal sprays 
  • Lozenges and buccal tablets
  • Toothpastes and mouthwashes  

How to achieve mucoadhesion in a formulation

Given the potential benefits of mucoadhesion, it is no surprise that more and more formulators are considering approaches to instil mucoadhesive properties into their drug products. But how can they achieve this effectively?

The key to achieving the right mucoadhesive profile for the unique needs of a pharmaceutical product lies in use of excipient. There are several polymers used across the pharmaceutical industry to impart mucoadhesion to drug formulations, such as xanthan gum and carbomers, such as LLS Health’s Carbopol® polymers and Noveon® polycarbophil.

These polymers possess unique functionalities that impact the mucoadhesive product profile and come in multiple grades so that the profile can be fine-tuned for a product’s individual needs. Studies have shown that formulations containing Carbopol® polymers or Noveon® polycarbophil display significantly longer product retention at the target site than those containing alternative polymers – with the potential to make a significant difference for patients and manufacturers. 

Time to consider your product’s mucoadhesive performance

In an increasingly competitive global pharmaceutical market, considering mucoadhesive for a variety of dosage forms products can not only improve the effectiveness of the product and benefit patients, but can also help them stand out from other standard product options. 

LLS Health is an expert in enabling and helping optimize mucoadhesive properties through the use of our polymers for differentiated OTC and Rx drug products. For more information on the benefits of mucoadhesion download our guide.

LLS Health Technical Team


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