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Pharm Res. 2006 Jan;23(1):196-204. Epub 2006 Nov 30.

Nanoparticles of poorly water-soluble drugs prepared by supercritical fluid extraction of emulsions.

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Posnick Center of Innovative Technology, Ferro Corporation, Independence, Ohio 44131, USA.



The aim of the study was to develop and evaluate a new method for the production of micro- and nanoparticles of poorly soluble drugs for drug delivery applications.


Fine particles of model compounds cholesterol acetate (CA), griseofulvin (GF), and megestrol acetate (MA) were produced by extraction of the internal phase of oil-in-water emulsions using supercritical carbon dioxide. The particles were obtained both in a batch or a continuous manner in the form of aqueous nanosuspensions. Precipitation of CA nanoparticles was used for conducting a mechanistic study on particle size control and scale-up. GF and MA nanoparticles were produced in several batches to compare their dissolution behavior with that of micronized materials. The physical analysis of the particles produced was performed using dynamic light scattering (particle size), scanning electron microscopy (morphology), powder X-ray diffraction (crystallinity), gas chromatography (residual solvent), and a dissolution apparatus.


Particles with mean volume diameter ranging between 100 and 1000 nm were consistently produced. The emulsion droplet size, drug solution concentration, and organic solvent content in the emulsion were the major parameters responsible for particle size control. Efficient and fast extraction, down to low parts-per-million levels, was achieved with supercritical CO2. The GF and MA nanoparticles produced were crystalline in nature and exhibited a 5- to 10-fold increase in the dissolution rate compared with that of micronized powders. Theoretical calculations indicated that this dissolution was governed mainly by the surface kinetic coefficient and the specific surface area of the particles produced. It was observed that the necessary condition for a reliable and scalable process was the sufficient emulsion stability during the extraction time.


The method developed offers a viable alternative to both the milling and constructive nanoparticle formation processes. Although preparation of a stable emulsion can be a challenge for some drug molecules, the new technique significantly shortens the processing time and overcomes the current limitations of the conventional precipitation techniques in terms of large waste streams, product purity, and process scale-up.

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