Researchers establish medication standards using specialized robot
With the average American chewing 300 sticks of gum each year, researchers are looking at ways to use that familiar activity to ensure people get needed medications in a timely and dose-correct fashion.
The idea of medicated or pharmaceutical chewing gum is not new: For instance, Nicorette—a brand-name nicotine-replacement therapy for people working to quit smoking—was developed in gum form in the late 1970s.
But then as now, there’s no standard for testing drug release and efficacy via chewing gum. So to help set these medical and manufacturing guidelines, University of Bristol (England) biomedical engineers have created a gum-chewing robot to simulate exactly how medicated gum can work.
As recently outlined in IEEE Transactions in Biomedical Engineering, the researchers’ robot—featuring humanoid jaws and simulated saliva—chews gum containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener frequently found in sugar-free gums. Researchers measured the amount of xylitol released from the robot’s gum into the simulated saliva at 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-minute intervals of continuous chewing.
The biomedical engineers found that the greatest release of the sweetener was within the first 5 minutes of the robot’s chewing—findings consistent with their human study participants—giving drug companies a mechanical way to safely research, implement, and release medications in gum form.
“Our research has shown the chewing robot gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to investigate medicated chewing gum, with reduced patient exposure and lower costs using this new method,” said University of Bristol Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Dr. Kazem Alemzadeh, the study’s lead author.
“The most convenient drug administration route to patients is through oral delivery methods,” added study co-author Professor Nicola West. “This research, utilizing a novel humanoid artificial oral environment, has the potential to revolutionize investigation into oral drug release and delivery.”
While it may take a while for more pharmaceutical gums to be developed and made available, licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California State Board of Pharmacy are ready to help you today with your medication questions and needs. For more information about these professionals and their services, visit www.pharmacy.ca.gov; to check that your pharmacist is licensed, visit search.dca.ca.gov.