Simple new way to clean traces of impurities from drug ingredients

June 20, 2012

Scientists are reporting development of a simple new procedure for removing almost 98 percent of an important impurity that can contaminate prescription drugs and potentially increase the risk for adverse health effects in patients. Their report appears in ACS' journal Organic Process Research & Development.

Ecevit Yilmaz and colleagues note that contamination of medications with so-called "genotoxic" impurities (GTIs) have resulted in several major recent drug recalls. GTIs may be ingredients used to make drugs, or they may be formed during production of drugs, and can remain in the final product in minute amounts. The presence of one GTI in the anti-viral medication Viracept distributed in the European Union forced a recall in 2007. With GTIs an ongoing serious concern for the pharmaceutical industry, the scientists sought a better way to remove an important GTI called acrolein.

They describe development of a way to remove acrolein by using engineered particles based on silica and polystyrene. Mixing the particles in a drug solution contaminated with acrolein for 20 minutes resulted in removal of nearly 98 percent of the GTI without any substantial removal of the active pharmaceutical ingredient. They note that while the separation materials are readily available, there may be the need for more research on the method before using it to clean up pharmaceuticals on a commercial basis.
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The authors acknowledge funding from the European Commission.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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