CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio—As drug delivery systems evolve, the geometry and composition of the elastomers—and the operating and storage requirements for the medicine—are becoming more complex.
David Pehlman, group leader for container closure and process innovation at Eli Lilly and Co., offered his expertise May 6 on the trends impacting elastomer products in the pharmaceutical industry.
"Traditional methods, like the vial and syringe systems, are still pertinent today," Pehlman said during his presentation at the virtual 2021 Healthcare Elastomers Conference, hosted by Rubber & Plastics News. "But more and more patients are now administering their own medicine, and these systems are becoming more and more complex."
Today's drug delivery systems must remain viable throughout a range of temperatures, from ambient to the incredibly cold, and they need to retain their medicinal advantages over a longer period in storage—from what used to be days or expected use within a year, to two years or more on the shelf.
As the pharmaceutical manufacturers address patient convenience—patients want their delivery devices to be inconspicuous, travel with them on vacations and be available on an immediate, as-needed basis—they also must test the compatibility of the medicine with the associated containers through a range of conditions.
"Drug delivery systems have multiple sub-systems and materials of construction," Pehlman said. "There is the primary container, drug formulation, tissue interface, connectivity and secondary packaging—all of which must be accounted for with their interactions. And these systems are evolving into entire transfer systems."
And the elastomers typically used in pharmaceutical production—whether liquid silicone rubber, a thermoplastic or a more traditional halogenated butyl rubber compound—are key factors in the precise distribution of the medicine (think plungers and pistons within the syringe) and sealing interfaces for long-term storage.