The Pharmaceutics and Compounding Laboratory
Preparation of Suppositories

Methods of Preparation

Suppositories can be extemporaneously prepared by one of three methods.

1. Hand Rolling is the oldest and simplest method of suppository preparation and may be used when only a few suppositories are to be prepared in a cocoa butter base. It has the advantage of avoiding the necessity of heating the cocoa butter. A plastic-like mass is prepared by triturating grated cocoa butter and active ingredients in a mortar. The mass is formed into a ball in the palm of the hands, then rolled into a uniform cylinder with a large spatula or small flat board on a pill tile. The cylinder is then cut into the appropriate number of pieces which are rolled on one end to produce a conical shape.

Effective hand rolling requires considerable practice and skill. The suppository "pipe" or cylinder tends to crack or hollow in the center, especially when the mass is insufficiently kneaded and softened.

2. Compression Molding is a method of preparing suppositories from a mixed mass of grated suppository base and medicaments which is forced into a special compression mold. The method requires that the capacity of the molds first be determined by compressing a small amount of the base into the dies and weighing the finished suppositories. When active ingredients are added, it is necessary to omit a portion of the suppository base, based on the density factors of the active ingredients.

3. Fusion Molding involves first melting the suppository base, and then dispersing or dissolving the drug in the melted base. The mixture is removed from the heat and poured into a suppository mold. When the mixture has congealed, the suppositories are removed from the mold. The fusion method can be used with all types of suppositories and must be used with most of them.

Suppositories are generally made from solid ingredients and drugs which are measured by weight. When they are mixed, melted, and poured into suppository mold cavities, they occupy a volume – the volume of the mold cavity. Since the components are measured by weight but compounded by volume, density calculations and mold calibrations are required to provide accurate doses.

When a drug is placed in a suppository base, it will displace an amount of base as a function of its density. If the drug has the same density as the base, it will displace an equivalent weight of the base. If the density of the drug is greater than that of the base, it will displace a proportionally smaller weight of the base. Density factors for common drugs in cocoa butter are available in standard reference texts. The density factor is used to determine how much of a base will be displaced by a drug. The relationship is:

For example, aspirin has a density factor in cocoa butter of 1.3 (see Remington's). If a suppository is to contain 0.3 g of aspirin, it will replace 0.3 g ÷ 1.3 or 0.23 g of cocoa butter. If the blank suppository (suppository without the drug) weighed 2 g, then 2 g - 0.23 g or 1.77 g of cocoa butter will be needed for each suppository, and the suppository will weigh 1.77 g + 0.3 g = 2.07 g. So if a pharmacist was making 12 aspirin suppositories using cocoa butter as the base, he would weigh 1.77 g × 12 or 21.24 g of cocoa butter and 0.3 g × 12 or 3.6 g of aspirin.

Some example density factors of drugs in cocoa butter are shown in the table below (see Remington's):

Aspirin 1.3
Barbital 1.2
Bismuth salicylate 4.5
Chloral hydrate 1.3
Cocaine hydrochloride 1.3
Codeine phosphate 1.1
Diphenhydramine hydrochloride 1.3
Morphine hydrochloride 1.6
Phenobarbital 1.2
Zinc Oxide 4.0