Analytical Advances for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: More information in Less Time
Pharmaceutical manufacturers have to balance several conflicting requirements in their testing and quality assurance programs.
By Kevin P. Menard, PhD MBA
The cost and speed of analysis as well as the amount of information obtained must be balanced to be as cost and time efficient as possible. In addition, one has to work within the constraints imposed by regulating agencies. This often defines what testing is required and what information must be obtained.
Recent advances in analytical instruments have led to the development of techniques that allow us to increase the speed and amount of information collected on pharmaceutical samples. This has come from a couple of recent developments: first, the development of instruments able to do quantitatively measure the heat flow of samples at high scanning rates in heating and cooling. The development of high speed differential scanning calorimetric (DSC) techniques allows the detection of weak transitions to much lower levels than previously possible, allowing the determination of amorphous content to very low levels. In addition, these techniques allow the use of smaller sample sizes and much higher through-put.
Next, the development and commercialization of spectral DSC techniques, where DSC is coupled with either Raman or NIR, allows more precise determination of the material’s state than either technique alone. The use of these techniques, particularly Raman Spectroscopy, allows one to see how the material response to processing conditions simulated in the DSC as well as detect structural changes caused by changes in the process.
While evolved gas analysis techniques (EVA) have been available and used for some time now, they have tended to be limited in scope and often custom made systems. Recently we have seen the options in these techniques expand to include infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), mass spectroscopy (MS), and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS). In addition, EVA techniques have become turn-key and allow the laboratory easily to detect and define residual solvents and contaminants in final products. In the following sections, we will look at these techniques in greater detail.
Fast Scanning Rate DSC: More Information Available Faster.
Originally developed to study polymer crystallization, Fast Scanning Rate DSC has become a powerful tool in pharmaceutical studies. One of its advantages is scanning at rates from 200 to 750 degrees C per minute dramatically shortens the run time for pharmaceuticals and allow for an immense increase in the number of samples run during a shift. At 200 per minute, an auto-sampler equipped DSC can run over 275 samples in a 24 hour period. This speed of analysis allows very close monitoring of processes.
However, the real advantages of fast scanning rate DSC are found in the increase in apparent sensitivity and the suppression of kinetic events due to the increased heating rate. In excipients like lactose , in pure or high concentration protein formulations , or in crystalline pharmaceuticals,  the ability to detect low levels of amorphous materials and to characterize its glass transition is greatly enhanced by scanning at faster rates. One use of this is in screening for solubility studies . Figure 1 shows a material run to detect the presence of amorphous components which could adversely affect dissolution of the material. Scanning at 500 degrees a minute shows a distinct glass transition, which indicates amorphous material in the sample. Similar work on lactose has shown it possible to detect the presence of amorphous lactose down to fractions of a percent.
The difference in scanning rates on the visibility of transitions is shown above. At 100 C/min the Tg blends into the leading edge of the melt. At 500 C/min, it becomes a clearly detectable Tg.
Other applications of fast scanning rate DSC exploit the time dependence of kinetic events: scanning at high rates will allow one to determine the melting point and the heat capacity of materials that normally decompose on melting. Similarly, kinetic transformations like polymorphic conversions can be “trapped” so that the original concentration of the components can be measured. This allows one to be sure that the final material processed is what it should be without needing to wait for results from slower methods.
Evolved Gas Analysis: Knowing Exactly What Comes Off.
Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) is commonly performed to check on samples to confirm the presence of residual solvents . However, TGA alone has a major disadvantage; the technique only tells you how much you have, not what it is. This lack of information is addressed by coupling the TGA to another instrument, which can identify specific compounds. Most commonly used are FTIR and MS, although recently the addition of a gas chromatograph between the TGA and the MS has been found to allow very precise identification of the volatile. All of these techniques are referred to collectively as Evolved Gas Analysis, or EVA. Individually, the abbreviations of TG-IR, TG-MS and TG-GC/MS are used. Often the TGA is replaced with a combined Differential Thermal (DT) analyzer and Thermogravimetric (TGA) analyzer. This DT/TGA, or STA (simultaneous analyzer), allows you to get thermal transitions along with the weight loss curve. Figure 3 shows data from a STA coupled to an FTIR. TG-IR with either TGA or STA is increasing commonly used for these applications. We can see the DT/TGA data gives us both the delta temperature curve and the material’s weight loss, while the IR information allows us to assign specific spectra to the various thermal events. In the case of a pharmaceutical, we would be able to look at a weight loss and confirm if it is water, acetone or benzene being evolved .