Excipients: The Unsung Heroes of Controlled Release Formulations

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In the ever-evolving landscape of pharmaceutical innovation, controlled release formulations have emerged as a game-changer, offering patients enhanced therapeutic benefits and improved medication adherence. However, the success of these advanced drug delivery systems hinges on a crucial component – excipients. Often overlooked, these multifaceted ingredients play a pivotal role in shaping the performance and efficacy of controlled release formulations.

The Backbone of Controlled Release

Excipients are the unsung heroes of controlled release formulations, acting as the backbone that enables the precise and tailored release of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). “Excipients are no longer just inert fillers; they are functional components that can significantly impact the drug’s release profile and bioavailability,” explains Dr. Evonne Brennan, Technical Marketing Manager at IMCD. [2]

“Excipients are key ingredients in controlled-release formulations. They act as matrix formers in matrix delivery systems and as polymeric membranes for drug powders and multi-particulate systems in oral solid dosage forms.” – Bujar Muça, Technical Product Manager, IMCD [2]

Mastering the Art of Release

The ability to control the release of APIs is the cornerstone of controlled release formulations, and excipients play a crucial role in this intricate process. By leveraging various mechanisms, such as dissolution, diffusion, osmotic pressure, and ion exchange, excipients can dictate when, where, and how the drug is released within the body.

“Ultimately, excipients that provide controlled-release characteristics to oral solid dosage forms allow not only control of the rate of the API release, but also targeting of where that release occurs,” states Shawn Branning, Strategic Marketing Leader for Controlled Release at DuPont Nutrition & Health. [2]

Tailoring the Release Profile

One of the key advantages of controlled release formulations is the ability to tailor the release profile to meet specific therapeutic needs. Excipients play a pivotal role in this customization process, enabling formulators to fine-tune the drug release pattern through careful selection and combination of polymers.

“The use of two-polymer matrix systems is growing. This approach can provide unique synergies and enable fine-tuning of the drug release pattern via modification of polymer entanglement and matrix texture,” explains Bujar Muça. [2]

Overcoming Solubility Challenges

Many APIs face solubility challenges, which can significantly impact their bioavailability and therapeutic efficacy. Excipients offer a solution to this problem by enhancing the dissolution rate and solubility of poorly soluble drugs.

“With respect to formulation approaches, excipients can be incorporated in the formulation to assist in the dissolution process of the drug, or specialized dosage forms can be formulated that improve dissolution rate through various mechanisms,” states Dr. Sai Hanuman Singham, a pharmaceutical scientist. [4]

Excipient Innovation: Pushing Boundaries

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to push boundaries, excipient manufacturers are rising to the challenge by developing innovative solutions to address emerging formulation challenges. From pH-responsive excipients for targeted drug delivery to abuse-deterrent formulations, the role of excipients in controlled release formulations is constantly evolving.

“More and more excipients suppliers are developing new excipients to provide solutions and support to move existing formulations into new areas,” notes the team at CD Formulation, a leading excipient manufacturer. [1]


In the realm of controlled release formulations, excipients are the unsung heroes, playing a pivotal role in shaping the performance, efficacy, and patient experience of these advanced drug delivery systems. As the pharmaceutical industry continues to innovate, the importance of excipients will only continue to grow, driving the development of more sophisticated and targeted controlled release formulations.

[1] https://www.formulationbio.com/products/controlled-release-excipients.html
[2] https://www.pharmtech.com/view/selecting-excipients-controlled-release
[3] https://austinpublishinggroup.com/drug-development/fulltext/drug-v9-id1044.pdf
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7284856/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8512302/

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