Xiaoming Xu, Ph.D., Senior Staff Fellow, Office of Testing and Research, Office of Pharmaceutical Quality, CDER

The use of nanotechnology in products regulated by the FDA has been ongoing for several decades and has included foods, cosmetics, medical devices and drugs. Within the purview of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), there is great diversity in drug products containing nanomaterials.

There has been a steady increase in the number of approved drug products containing nanomaterials, including investigational new drugs, new drug applications, and abbreviated new drug applications (commonly known as generics). More than 60 applications have been approved since the early 1970s, and interest continues to rise.

Drug products containing nanomaterials are unique in several ways because they may take on different chemical, physical, or biological properties compared to other types of drugs. In some instances, this may impact the quality, safety, or efficacy of the product. For example, drug products containing nanomaterials may follow a different pathway in the body compared to a small molecule drug. After a drug product formulated as a nanomaterial enters the bloodstream, it could interact with specialized immune cells called macrophages, which engulf and transport a drug to the location for which it has been programmed, such as where bacteria, fungi, or viruses reside. These areas are typically difficult to reach for a small molecule.

In another example, a drug formulated as a nanomaterial may have a special “coating” that prevents it from interacting with immune cells so that the drug can circulate in the bloodstream for prolonged periods of time until it reaches tumor tissues. The ability to target areas of the body and bypass others can significantly reduce the risk of side effects, such as toxicity to nontarget organs, and potentially increase the effectiveness of the treatment. For these reasons, nanomaterials are most frequently used in the treatment of cancer or infections. Formulations like liposomes, nanocrystals and nano-emulsions are among the most common types of drug products containing nanomaterials being approved.


For more information go to https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/NewsEvents/ucm605837.htm