Biopharmaceutics of topical ophthalmic suspensions: Importance of viscosity and particle size in ocular absorption of indomethacin

Elisa Toropainen, Sara J. Fraser-Miller, Dunja Novakovic, Eva M. Del Amo, Kati Sisko Vellonen, Marika Ruponen, Tapani Viitala, Ossi Korhonen, Seppo Auriola, Laura Hellinen, Mika Reinisalo, Unni Tengvall, Stephanie Choi, Mohammad Absar, Clare Strachan, Arto Urtti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Eye drops of poorly soluble drugs are frequently formulated as suspensions. Bioavailability of suspended drug depends on the retention and dissolution of drug particles in the tear fluid, but these factors are still poorly understood. We investigated seven ocular indomethacin suspensions (experimental suspensions with two particle sizes and three viscosities, one commercial suspension) in physical and biological tests. The median particle size (d50) categories of the experimental suspensions were 0.37–1.33 and 3.12–3.50 µm and their viscosity levels were 1.3, 7.0, and 15 mPa·s. Smaller particle size facilitated ocular absorption of indomethacin to the aqueous humor of albino rabbits. In aqueous humor the AUC values of indomethacin suspensions with different particle sizes, but equal viscosity, differed over a 1.5 to 2.3-fold range. Higher viscosity increased ocular absorption 3.4–4.3-fold for the suspensions with similar particle sizes. Overall, the bioavailability range for the suspensions was about 8-fold. Instillation of larger particles resulted in higher tear fluid AUC values of total indomethacin (suspended and dissolved) as compared to application of smaller particles. Despite these tear fluid AUC values of total indomethacin, instillation of the larger particles resulted in smaller AUC levels of indomethacin in the aqueous humor. This suggests that the small particles yielded higher concentrations of dissolved indomethacin in the tear fluid, thereby leading to improved ocular bioavailability. This new conclusion was supported by ocular pharmacokinetic modeling. Both particle size and viscosity have a significant impact on drug concentrations in the tear fluid and ocular drug bioavailability from topical suspensions. Viscosity and particle size are the key players in the complex interplay of drug retention and dissolution in the tear fluid, thereby defining ocular drug absorption and bioequivalence of ocular suspensions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number452
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Bioequivalence
  • Dissolution
  • Indomethacin
  • Ocular absorption
  • Particle size
  • Suspension
  • Viscosity


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