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Hot-melt Extrusion Formulation Screening 

It's made easy with VCM.

Vacuum Compression Molding is the novel screening method for hot-melt extruded formulations. This innovative technology allows the preparation of thermoplastic dosage forms (e.g., ASDs or implants in the milligram to gram-scale), and it's the first lossless approach to melt material into a defined shape without air inclusions. 


Poorly-soluble API





Poorly-soluble API and carriers

e.g. Indometacin


Quality scale - VCM samples and extrudates

Transparent VCM Discs

Transparent extrudates

mg-to-g scale & no material loss

Hot-melt extrusion

>g scale & high material loss

Quality balance

Extruder - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening
Vacuum Compression Molding - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening

Solubility of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

The basics.

According to IUPAC, solubility is the analytical composition of a saturated solution expressed as a proportion of a designated solute in a designated solvent. Solubility is an important parameter to achieve the desired concentration of drug in systemic circulation for an anticipated pharmacological response. 

The Biopharmaceutics Classification System (BCS) is a guide for predicting the intestinal drug absorption provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This system restricts the prediction using the parameters solubility and intestinal permeability.

 Classification System according to Pharmacopoeia 

Solubility classification Pharmacopoeia

Solubility is based on the highest-dose strength of an immediate release product. A drug is considered highly soluble when the highest dose strength is soluble in 250 mL or less of aqueous media over the pH range of 1 to 7.5. The volume estimate of 250 mL is derived from typical bioequivalence study protocols that prescribe the administration of a drug product to fasting human volunteers with a glass of water. (Source)

Solubility of APIs in Tablets

How long does it take to dissolve? 

Let's consider some examples of poorly-soluble drugs according to Pharmacopoeia classification. Itraconazole has a solubility of 1 ng/ml, and its typical dose is 100 mg of API. To dissolve this dose, a volume of around 100 l of water is required. For Fenofibrate, 205 L of water is required for dissolution. Formulations are usually tested in a dissolution tester (which mimics the gastrointestinal tract), and it only has standard volumes of less than 1 liter. The low solubility of these complex molecules can be driven by poor dissolution or can be truly solubility-limited due to either the lipophilicity of the molecule or high crystal forces that inhibit dissolution. 

Itraconazole Solubility in Water:   1 ng/ml

  „Sporanox“ Dose:   100 mg API


Volume: 100 Liter

 Brick dust compounds - Itraconazole

Fenofibrate Solubility in Water:   0.707 ng/ml

  „Tricor“ Dose:   145 mg API


Volume: 205 Liter

Brick dust compounds - Fenofibrate

Dissolution Test


500, 900,

or 1000 mL

Dissolution test
Dissolution test

What can be done to dissolve these poorly soluble drugs in the human body? The solution lies in solubility enhancement, performed via mixing API molecules with soluble carriers. With this method, dissolution, absorption, and therapeutic efficacy of drugs are increased as no lattice energy is present.

Poorly-soluble Drugs and Amorphous Solid Dispersion

Solubility enhancement. 

The concept of solid dispersions originally derived from the investigation of generation and dissolution performance of eutectic melts of a sulfonamide drug and a water-soluble carrier in the early 1960s (Source). Solid dispersions represent a useful pharmaceutical technique for increasing the dissolution, absorption, and therapeutic efficacy of drugs in dosage forms. 

Solubility enhancement
Amorphous Carrier

Lattice Energy
limits solubility



Amorphous carrier

(e.g. HPC, HPMCAS,

API Crystals

Crystalline API clusters

Amorphous API clusters

Glassy solution

Molecular dispersion

Crystals API

The term solid dispersion refers to a group of solid products consisting of at least two different components, generally a hydrophilic matrix and a hydrophobic drug. The most commonly used hydrophilic carriers for solid dispersions include polyvinylpyrrolidone (Povidone, PVP), polyethylene glycols (PEGs), Plasdone-S630. 

Screening Methods for ASDs

Compare and see the difference.

Various processing methods are used for ASD formulations screening. Herein we consider physical mixture, solvent casting, hot-melt extrusion, and VCM (Vacuum Compression Molding).

Physical powder mixtures and solvent-based screening

Physical powder mixtures (the combination of two or more substances in which the identities are retained) are used for DSC investigations to obtain information about phase transitions and solid-state information. However, long diffusion path lengths, gravity as the only shaping force, and air between particles are hindrances in forming a homogenous distribution of the ADS components.


With the solvent cast method, the API is either suspended or dissolved in a solution of polymers or any other ingredients dissolved in a volatile solvent, like water or ethanol. The advantages of this technology include uniform distribution, purity, and lossless preparation (Source). With the help of robotics, a high amount of formulations can be screened. However, it does not work with all substances, and promising carriers like PVA must be excluded from the investigation. And shaping is limited.

Hot-melt extrusion

Hot-melt extrusion, which was originally used in plastic, food, and metals, has gained a significant role in the 1970s, and nowadays, it's widely used in pharmaceutical applications and drug manufacturing.




The physical mixture of a drug and a carrier is heated directly via shear heating and conduction until they form a melt. The melted mixture is then cooled and solidified rapidly after the die plate. The final solid mass is then crushed, pulverized, and sieved, which can be compressed into tablets with the help of tableting agents. (Source).

Hot-melt extrusion (HME) is the most preferred and effective method for manufacturing amorphous solid dispersions at a production scale. Still, this technique's main disadvantage consists of consuming large amounts of samples when used for formulation development. Dead volumes within the equipment yield cause unavoidable losses.

Screening methods - Extrusion VCM tool

VCM: the Innovative Screening for HME Formulations

Extrusion without an extruder.

MeltPrep VCM is the novel screening method that allows the preparation of thermoplastic dosage forms (e.g., ASDs or implants in the milligram to gram-scale). The great innovation of this technology consists of a totally lossless approach to melt material into a defined shape without air inclusions. VCM lossless approach is a powerful tool to speed up pharmaceutical formulation and process design.

Vacuum Compression Molding VCM - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening

How does VCM speed up drug formulation development?

There are various stages in drug formulation development. There are many compounds to deal with in drug discovery and the pre-clinical stage of formulation, and the costs are rather high. Small scale extrusion methods are used in this phase, and around 5-10 g of material is generally needed for every experiment. 

Drug development process - Vacuum Compression Molding HME formulation screening

MeltPrep VCM Tool can make a significant difference in this early formulation stage development. It works with few milligrams of a formulation, significantly reducing material waste and its costs. Costs and amounts are generally reduced as we proceed to the next stages of formulation development.


In the scale-up phase, we do offer ExtruVis as a valuable ally for troubleshooting continuous processes. It allows easy Residence Time Distribution measurement in all the processes in which a visual trace can be applied.

VCM for in‐vitro Drug Dissolution Studies

Fast sample preparation to obtain the best results.

Controlled drug delivery systems are advantageous over conventional dosage forms as they yield more stable plasma profiles, allow for reduced administration frequency, and minimize the potential of side effects. While conventional dosage forms release the drug within a comparatively short time frame, CDDSs contain polymers to control drug release and, thereby, the onset and duration of the drug’s action in the body. Multilayer samples are requested in galenic to study drug diffusion and release, but they are difficult to prototype with conventional equipment. A well-known example of such a dosage form is the intra-vaginal birth control ring (IVR) from Merck (NuvaRing™).

Intravaginal ring IVR NuvaRing VCM formulation screening
Intravaginal ring IVR NuvaRing VCM formulation screening

Lateral surface

sealed with

barrier glue

Intravaginal ring NuvaRing IVR study

e.g. Ø10 mm

VCM Technology enables the production of multilayer samples. Layers of different materials are prepared one by one and then stacked in the desired order and loaded into the VCM Tool. By performing an additional VCM cycle, they are fused to one solid multilayer sample.

Multilayer Sample with distinct layers and sharp interface(s)

VCM sample - Vacuum Compression Molding Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening
VCM sample - Vacuum Compression Molding Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening
VCM Vacuum Compression Molding - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening
VCM Vacuum Compression Molding - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening
VCM sample - Vacuum Compression Molding Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening

Pilot plants and six-digit Euro investments were required for prototyping pharmaceutical dosage forms with melt-processed carriers in the past. Now, the VCM technology enables rapid prototyping at a fraction of the costs and time required for traditional prototyping methods.

 VCM Applications - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening

VCM can be used for different applications: rheology, diffusion studies, DSC measurements, spectroscopy, and many more.

ASD and implant formulation

It's made easy with VCM.

VCM allows acceleration of formulation development using solid dispersions and the efficiency of initial studies in HME. Watch the video and discover how rapid and lossless ASD and implant prototyping works.

Compare VCM and HME in ASD formulation screening 

Learn from the direct experience.

A recent publication investigated the processability of VCM for the creation of amorphous formulations and to compare its results with Hot-melt extruded-processed formulations. Mixtures of indomethacin (IND) with drug carriers (Parteck® MXP, Soluplus®, Kollidon® VA 64, Eudragit® EPO) were processed using VCM and extrusion technology. Click on the button below to learn how VCM is a helpful tool to save valuable material in your lab and speed up your drug formulation development.

Vacuum Compression Molding VCM - Hot-melt extrusion formulation screening
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