We’ve all probably broken a pill at one point or another, most likely to take a smaller dose of the medicine. But sometimes pills are broken, smashed or pulverized for more dangerous reasons. Especially if the medicine is the strong painkiller OxyContin.
OxyContin abuse had become a big enough problem that scientists started working on solutions. Enter James McGinity, the Johnson and Johnson Centennial Chair Emeritus in Pharmacy, a pharmaceutical researcher whose work has centered around the proper administrations of medicines and drug delivery.
Collaborating with then-graduate student Feng Zhang (now an assistant professor of pharmaceutics), McGinity embedded OxyContin into a polymer so that it can only be released slowly as it goes through the stomach and the intestine. This makes the OxyContin tamper-resistant, and has given legitimate pain sufferers the option to obtain a proven effective drug that had been taken off the market due to abuse.
“The tablet cannot be broken with a hammer, so it cannot be snorted, and the drug cannot be really extracted such that it can be injected into the bloodstream,” McGinity says. They made an indestructible pill.
[McGinity was honored as Inventor of the Year in 2014 by the Office of Technology Commercialization.]
To manufacture the tamper-proof painkillers, the medicine is subjected to a unique combination of pressure and temperature during the extrusion process, giving the final dosage form a remarkably strong physical strength.
“This is the first approved abuse-deterrent technology,” Zhang says. “Actually, this is the only approved abuse-deterrent technology approved by the FDA.”
This tamper-proof design is already saving countless lives, while promoting the proper use of this powerful, extended release painkiller.
McGinity and Zhang aren’t doing this all alone, however. McGinity’s students play a crucial role in his research, and he encourages them to “think of themselves as inventors.” Together they collaborate on writing patents and bringing new solutions to the field’s most pressing problems.
McGinity addresses the patent process in the video below, asking “What does it take to get a patent? There has to be a problem to solve. Where is the unmet need?”
“All of his graduate students are not just conducting research to get their Ph.D. They’re conducting research to solve problems and to do it in ways that are novel and valuable,” says former student Dave Miller, Ph.D. ’07 and vice president of research and development for DisperSol Technologies.
The world’s first tamper-proof pill. That’s how we change the world!