Nanotechnology does not necessarily only describe a size, but it can also be a process. It takes special techniques to produce particles in the nanometer range with any kind of precision and consistency. For the past decade or so, Elan Drug Technologies, the drug delivery unit of Irish drugmaker Elan, has been working on, and perfecting, its NanoCrystal technology, which essentially is a milling technique that breaks down drug crystal sizes to less than 2,000 nanometers.
This seemingly small, simple solution addresses at least one major problem facing the pharmaceutical industry today: Poor solubility of drugs. It's a big problem. Drugs that do not dissolve well are generally treated like alien invaders by the body and it works like crazy to get them out. Even the most successful drugs often have trouble dissolving, so drugmakers tack on compounds to make it more soluble. Unfortunately, patients read about the side-effects of those soluble compounds in the often-mocked, ubiquitous "fine print" that drug companies are forced to include in their commercials. Nano-sizing the drug compound increase its surface area, making it much more soluble.
Elan says its NanoCrystal technology is currently used in five commercialized products, including Invega Sustenna, an extended-release injectable suspension for schizophrenia approved by the FDA a year ago and marketed by Janssen in the United States.
In March, the company announced that the first injectable product using its NanoCrystal technology has been approved by the European Commission. The European body gave the OK for Janssen-Cilag's XEPLION, an injectable schizophrenia treatment.