Extended-release solid dispersion granules of tacrolimus: release mechanism and oral bioavailability


We aimed to prepare a once-daily modified-release oral formulation of tacrolimus by utilizing an extended-release granules (ERG).


Extended-release granules were prepared using ethylcellulose (EC), hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) and lactose via a solvent evaporation method with ethanol. Physicochemical and biopharmaceutical studies were performed to determine the formulation with optimum release profile of tacrolimus from ERG.

Key findings

Tacrolimus existed in an amorphous state in ERG. Tacrolimus release from ERG was attenuated by EC and facilitated by lactose, suggesting that drug release kinetics could adequately be regulated by these components. Those release profiles were consistent with Higuchi's equation, suggesting a diffusion-type release mechanism. Smooth surface of ERG changed to the structure with pores after the release test, likely derived from the dissolution of HPMC and lactose. But ERG structure formed by EC was still maintained after the release test, leading to the longer maintenance of diffusion-type release. Two ERG formulations selected by blood concentration simulation successfully provided long-term retention of tacrolimus in blood in a human absorption study.


We successfully developed the formulation exhibiting a significant reduction in Cmax, the longer mean residence time and AUC close to that of an immediate-release tacrolimus formulation, being preferred from the viewpoint of safe and effective immunosuppressant pharmacotherapy.