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Unmasking the Blind of Over-Encapsulation

Richard Shannon at Almac Clinical Services, assesses the impact of over-encapsulation in the clinical supplies industry

A study conducted by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimated that the cost of bringing a novel compound to market is in excess of $800 million, so the need to prove superior efficacy and safety when compared to an already marketed product is of critical importance. When developing protocol designs, blinding or masking of clinical supplies is an integral part of many studies. This can help remove both investigator and patient bias due to the visibility of the marketed product, and can limit any potential placebo effect. One of the extensively used mechanisms available to sponsor companies to promote blinding is the over-encapsulation of tablets or capsules.

Over-encapsulation is now a widely accepted mechanism used throughout the clinical supplies industry, and while the process itself may appear relatively straightforward, packaging for clinical supplies is a complex process that is strictly controlled by good manufacturing practice (GMP). The principle of overencapsulation is simply the addition of a product or products to a hard gelatin capsule, which may or may not be backfilled with an inactive bulk agent or excipient. This process can be used for comparator products, investigational medicinal products (IMP) and/or placebos, providing an output of visually identical capsules for each product or strength, thus maintaining the blind and removing any potential bias.


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Richard Shannon joined Almac Clinical Services (formerly Clinical Trial Services) in 1999 and has served in various business development functions during this time. He began his Almac career in Europe, before relocating to Almac, US, in 2001, where he gained valuable insight into the US clinical trial supply market and was integral in establishing a new business development team. Richard returned to Almac Europe in October 2005, and was appointed Head of Business Development (Europe). Prior to joining Almac, Richard was employed by MDS Harris (now MDS Pharmaservices) where he performed various clinical trial conduct roles. Richard holds a BSc (Hons) from Queen’s University, Belfast.
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