A small amount of food is commonly used to aid administration of medicines to children to improve palatability and/or swallowability. However the impact of this co-administered food on the absorption and subsequent pharmacokinetic profile of the drug is unknown. Existing information on food effects is limited to standard protocols used to evaluate the impact of a high fat meal in an adult population using the adult medication. In the absence of a substantial body of data, there are no specific guidelines available during development of paediatric products relating to low volumes of potentially low calorie food.
This paper brings together expertise to consider how the impact of co-administered food can be risk assessed during the development of a paediatric medicine. Two case studies were used to facilitate discussions and seek out commonalities in risk assessing paediatric products; these case studies used model drugs that differed in their solubility, a poorly soluble drug that demonstrated a positive food effect in adults and a highly soluble drug where a negative food effect was observed. For poorly soluble drugs risk assessments are centred upon understanding the impact of food on the in vivo solubility of the drug which requires knowledge of the composition of the food and the volumes present within the paediatric gastrointestinal tract. Further work is required to develop age appropriate in vitro and in silico models that are representative of paediatric populations.
For soluble drugs it is more important to understand the mechanisms that may lead to a food effect, this may include interactions with transporters or the impact of the food composition on gastro-intestinal transit or even altered gastric motility. In silico models have the most promise for highly soluble drug products although it is essential that these models reflect the relevant mechanisms involved in potential food effects.
The development of appropriate in vitro and in silico tools is limited by the lack of available clinical data that is critical to validate any tool. Further work is required to identify globally acceptable and available vehicles that should be the first option for co-administration with medicines to enable rapid and relevant risk assessment.