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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

The Next Step

For as long as anyone can remember, the industry has adhered to a ‘traditional’ process for making oral drug doses. That process has, largely, involved reacting, blending, granulation, drying, tabletting, coating and finally packing. This approach has made it easier to prepare new drugs, but left little room for innovation and process improvement.

Although a stepwise approach, based on batch manufacturing, has worked well enough, there is a growing realisation by many in the industry that this route has tended to stifle innovation and process improvement. In order to drive new thinking into the pharmaceutical manufacturing process, the FDA has led the way with a number of initiatives, notably ‘cGMP in the 21st Century’, ‘Process Analytical Technologies’ (PAT) and ‘Quality by Design’ (QbD). The aim of these initiatives has been to increase the robustness of the drugs: in the FDA’s own words, “building quality into products”. In this context, it specifically mentions continuous processing, echoing the belief that other industries (such as confectionery or chemicals) do it better.

This article will consider continuous processing in more detail, in particular addressing key questions such as: has the industry started to change; where are we now; what can we learn from other industries; and what is the future for continuous processing?


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Adrian Howson is a Principal Consultant within the Product Development Group of Sagentia. He joined Sagentia in 2009 following 12 years at PA Consulting where he was Skill Group Leader in the Machine Design Group. His main area of speciality is in product and process development for the pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical industries. Adrian is a Fellow of IMechE, the UK body for chartered mechanical engineers (EurIng). He is a member of the pharmaceutical committee and has just been appointed joint editor of the IMechE and IChemE newsletter. Adrian has an MBA from the City University (London) Business School. His original degree was a BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering from Liverpool University. He is a Chartered Engineer and an MPDS facilitator for graduates aiming to gain Charter status within the IMechE.
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