We describe the key issues and possibilities for continuous final dosage formation, otherwise known as downstream processing or drug product manufacturing. A distinction is made between heterogeneous processing and homogeneous processing, the latter of which is expected to add more value to continuous manufacturing. We also give the key motivations for moving to continuous manufacturing, some of the exciting new technologies, and the barriers to implementation of continuous manufacturing. Continuous processing of heterogeneous blends is the natural first step in converting existing batch processes to continuous. In heterogeneous processing, there are discrete particles that can segregate, versus in homogeneous processing, components are blended and homogenized such that they do not segregate. Heterogeneous processing can incorporate technologies that are closer to existing technologies, where homogeneous processing necessitates the development and incorporation of new technologies. Homogeneous processing has the greatest potential for reaping the full rewards of continuous manufacturing, but it takes long‐term vision and a more significant change in process development than heterogeneous processing. Heterogeneous processing has the detriment that, as the technologies are adopted rather than developed, there is a strong tendency to incorporate correction steps, what we call below “The Rube Goldberg Problem.” Thus, although heterogeneous processing will likely play a major role in the near‐term transformation of heterogeneous to continuous processing, it is expected that homogeneous processing is the next step that will follow.
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Original Publication Date: 12/12/2014