Something to chew on

30 December 2020

Michael Sultan discusses novel ways to administer drugs.

Michael Sultan discusses novel ways to administer drugs.

Oral administration of drugs has traditionally remained much the same throughout history. Medication is usually either swallowed in liquid or tablet form or administered via injection, depending on what the purpose of the medication is and the desired effect.

However, while these tried and tested methods certainly work, there are problems that can arise. People may find tablets or liquids difficult to swallow, and injections can cause fear and anxiety, especially in those who have an aversion to pain.

So, what if there was a way to administer oral medication in a way that bypassed these problems? Although medicated chewing gum is not exactly revolutionary, it’s definitely gaining traction as a viable option for some medications, opening up new possibilities that could benefit patients and professionals alike.

Arguably, one of the biggest benefits of medicated chewing gum is that it allows patients to avoid the problems experienced when taking medicine orally in other forms. Medicated chewing gum works by slowly releasing the medicine as it is chewed, meaning that there is no need to swallow anything or to receive injections. This is perfect for patients who struggle with traditional methods of taking oral medicine, which in turn, is likely to help improve patient compliance.

Another huge benefit of medicated chewing gum is that it is perfectly suited for treating oral conditions as trials have proven that the drug itself is better absorbed when taken in this manner.

These are not the only positives, and medicated chewing gum can also ensure that medication avoids the damaging effect of stomach acid and enzymes within the gastrointestinal tract, ensuring that its efficacy is not hampered. Furthermore, it is also good for rapid delivery and stable against outside influences such as light, oxygen and moisture.

So, if medicated chewing gum has so many positives, why is it not in wider use? The answer to this is that testing these drugs has been a challenge. Due to the unique nature of how medicine in this form works, there is currently no gold standard for testing drug release for chewing gum in vitro. In light of this, testing medicated chewing gum is complex and has often involved human participants. This comes with a whole host of potential problems, especially if medication may have unknown side effects or potentially harmful results.

Luckily, it seems that there may now be a way forward – a robotic human jaw model that has purposely been crafted to recreate the motions and exact conditions of a human oral cavity during the chewing process. This innovation holds a lot of potential for the advancement of these medications.

What makes this technology so interesting is that, when tested against a human mouth, the robot jaws were equally effective at getting the chewing gum to release the drug contained and that the levels of the drug found in the false saliva substitute perfectly mirrored those found in the real saliva of the human testing counterpart.

What this means for the future development of these medicines is that there is a now a method to test them accurately without the involvement of human life. This is not only a safer route but also cheaper, meaning that it’s very likely that these medicines will continue to be developed and soon become the norm.

For dentists this is very good news. If oral conditions can be tackled effectively with a safer, more attractive form of medicine that can also help prevent tooth decay as an added bonus, this can only be a very positive step forward. Of course, we won’t know the true benefits until these medications become widely available, but it’s definitely something to look forward to that has the potential to change how we tackle a wide range of illnesses in the future.

References available on request.