Terahertz pulsed imaging (TPI) was employed to explore its suitability for detecting differences in the film coating thickness and drug layer uniformity of multilayered, sustained-release coated, standard size pellets (approximately 1 mm in diameter). Pellets consisting of a sugar starter core and a metoprolol succinate layer were coated with a Kollicoat® SR:Kollicoat® IR polymer blend for different times giving three groups of pellets (batches I, II and III), each with a different coating thickness according to weight gain. Ten pellets from each batch were mapped individually to evaluate the coating thickness and drug layer thickness between batches, between pellets within each batch, and across individual pellets (uniformity). From the terahertz waveform the terahertz electric field peak strength (TEFPS) was used to define a circular area (approximately 0.13 mm2) in the TPI maps, where no signal distortion was found due to pellet curvature in the measurement set-up used. The average coating thicknesses were 46 μm, 71 μm and 114 μm, for batches I, II and III respectively, whilst no drug layer thickness difference between batches was observed. No statistically significant differences in the average coating thickness and drug layer thickness within batches (between pellets) but high thickness variability across individual pellets was observed. These results were confirmed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The coating thickness results correlated with the subsequent drug release behaviour. The fastest drug release was obtained from batch I with the lowest coating thickness and the slowest from batch III with the highest coating thickness. In conclusion, TPI is suitable for detailed, non-destructive evaluation of film coating and drug layer thicknesses in multilayered standard size pellets.
...Samples were measured on a TPI imaga 2000 (Teraview Ltd., Cambridge, UK).