The essential role of titanium dioxide in pharmaceuticals

From the protection of active ingredients to improving patient management of medications, titanium dioxide (TiO2) plays an essential role at all stages of a pharmaceutical product’s lifecycle.

While TiO2 has long been a key ingredient in countless consumer and industrial goods, the role it occupies in the pharmaceutical industry is arguably its most vital. Thanks to its highly desirable properties, TiO2 is used in the vast majority of medicines on the market.

According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), there is no single material that provides the same combination of properties that are unique to TiO2.

The unique beneficial properties of TiO2 in medicines

TiO2 is not only used for asthetic purposes.  It performs a unique combination of key functions at all stages of a pharmaceutical product’s lifecycle. Over the course of a century this has made it indispensable to manufacturers, doctors and patients across the world, and nowadays TiO2 is almost ubiquitously present in essential medicines for humans.

Some of the key properties and applications of TiO2 include:

  • Protective coatings to preserve the efficacy of medicines over time – TiO2 is an essential component of the protective coatings on medications, which enhances the safety, efficacy, and quality of pharmaceuticals for longer periods. Thanks to its ability to scatter light and absorb UV rays, TiO2 extends the shelf-life and ensures the stability of pharmaceuticals by protecting the active ingredients against UV/light and heat degradation.
  • Making pharmaceuticals safer to use and easier to manage – whether it is used to add whiteness or accentuate the boldness of other colours in the protective coatings used on medications, TiO2 enables a large colour scheme and ensures that medicines maintain colour uniformity over time. Colour consistency and uniformity play a significant role in the ability of patients and medical professionals to differentiate medications and dosages and safely manage their medicines. This has a direct positive impact on patient safety and adherence to prescription instructions. This is crucial for people with limited eyesight, or those that require multiple different medications or when different strengths of the same medication are available – as is the case with common blood thinner Warfarin, where four separate colours denote different dosages. Colouring is also a key indication for healthcare professionals and emergency centres in responding to cases of drug overdose or intoxication, and it can help determine if a tablet is real or counterfeit.
  • Inert and effective ingredient – TiO2 is an inert and unreactive substance that does not interfere with the properties of the active ingredients of medicines nor other essential non-active components of a medicine (excipients). Only a small quantity of TiO2 is needed to achieve the desired properties. Alternative materials would need to be added in larger amounts while still not delivering the same functions that TiO2.