The Pharmaceutics and Compounding Laboratory
Preparation of Suppositories

Suppository Bases

Suppository bases may be conveniently classified as according to their composition and physical properties:

  • Oleaginous (fatty) bases
  • Water soluble or miscible bases
Different suppository bases

Oleaginous Bases

Oleaginous bases include Theobroma Oil and synthetic triglyceride mixtures.

  1. Cocoa ButterTheobroma Oil or cocoa butter is used as a suppository base because, in large measure, it fulfills the requirements of an ideal base. At ordinary room temperatures of 15° to 25°C (59° to 77°F), it is a hard, amorphous solid, but at 30° to 35°C (86° to 95°F), i.e., at body temperature, it melts to a bland, nonirritating oil. Thus in warm climates, theobroma oil suppositories should be refrigerated.

    Particular attention must be given to two factors when preparing suppositories with cocoa butter base. First, this base must not be heated above 35°C (95°F) because cocoa butter is a polymorphic compound and if overheated will convert to a metastable structure that melts in the 25° to 30°C (77° to 86°F) range. Thus, the finished suppositories would melt at room temperature and not be usable.

    The second factor is the change in melting point caused by adding certain drugs to cocoa butter suppositories. For example, chloral hydrate and phenol tend to lower the melting point. It may be necessary to add spermaceti or beeswax to raise the melting point of finished suppositories back to the desired range.

  2. The newer synthetic triglycerides consist of hydrogenated vegetable oils. Their advantage over cocoa butter is that they do not exhibit polymorphism. They are, however, more expensive. Some of the bases are single entity formulations. Some of the names may denote a series of bases. In a series, the bases are varied to give a range of melting points. For example, Fattibase® is a single entity base that consists of triglycerides from palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils. Wecobee® is a series of bases. Wecobee FS, M, R, and S are all made from triglycerides of coconut oil. But FS has a melting point range of 39.4 to 40.5°C, M has a range of 33.3 to 36.0°C, R has a range of 33.9 to 35.0°C, and S has a range of 38.0 to 40.5°C. Other triglyceride type bases include Dehydag®, Hydrokote®, Suppocire®, and Witepsol®.

Water Soluble/Water Miscible Bases

Water soluble/water miscible bases are those containing glycerinated gelatin or the polyethylene glycol (PEG) polymers.

  1. Glycerinated Gelatin SuppositoriesGlycerinated Gelatin is a useful suppository base, particularly for vaginal suppositories. It is suitable for use with a wide range of medicaments including alkaloids, boric acid, and zinc oxide. Glycerinated gelatin suppositories are translucent, resilient, gelatinous solids that tend to dissolve or disperse slowly in mucous secretions to provide prolonged release of active ingredients.

    Suppositories made with glycerinated gelatin must be kept in well-closed containers in a cool place since they will absorb and dissolve in atmospheric moisture. In addition, those intended for extended shelf-life should have a preservative added, such as methylparaben or propylparaben, or a suitable combination of the two. To facilitate administration, glycerinated gelatin suppositories should be dipped in water just before use.

  2. PEG SuppositoriesPolyethylene Glycol Polymers have received much attention as suppository bases in recent years because they possess many desirable properties. They are chemically stable, nonirritating, miscible with water and mucous secretions, and can be formulated, either by molding or compression, in a wide range of hardness and melting point. Like glycerinated gelatin, they do not melt at body temperature, but dissolve to provide a more prolonged release than theobroma oil.

    Certain polyethylene glycol polymers may be used singly as suppository bases but, more commonly, formulas call for compounds of two or more molecular weights mixed in various proportions as needed to yield a finished product of satisfactory hardness and dissolution time.

    Since the water miscible suppositories dissolve in body fluids and need not be formulated to melt at body temperature, they can be formulated with much higher melting points and thus may be safely stored at room temperature.

    Examples of various PEGs used in suppository bases are:

    1450 30%
    8000 70%
    1450 1.96 gm
    3350 200 mg
    300 60%
    8000 40%
    300 48%
    6000 52%
    1000 95%
    3350 5%
    1000 75%
    3350 25%
    300 10%
    1540 65%
    3350 25%
    Silica Gel 25 mg
    PEG 1450 2.3 gm