How Safe Is Your Medicine?

Differential Scanning Calorimetry Testing pillsEaster was just a few weeks ago, and if you have any chocolate bunnies left, you may unwrap them only to find their lustrous brown color has turned a dull, flat gray.

Not very appealing, but the chocolate is still okay to eat — the gray coating is a result of sugar crystallization, and is simply a result of temperature variations during storage. That’s good to know if you have young children who dive into their candy baskets with abandon.

The Effect of Temperature

Many of us are aware that temperature, either extreme hot or extreme cold, can have adverse effects on many items. For example, a container of milk left out overnight will sour and spoil because the warmer temperature promotes bacterial growth. Consumption could result in anything from stomach cramps to an emergency room visit.

What many of us don’t know, and yet is critical to our health, is the effect that extreme heat or cold can have on the medications we take – whether over-the-counter or prescribed.

What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

While consumers may be unaware that temperature can compromise drug efficacy, manufacturers’ are well aware that a product can be degraded by either extreme cold or extreme heat.

Oftentimes this simply results in a drug being ineffective — for example, an allergy med that fails to relieve hay-fever symptoms; but there are times when it can be fatal — for example, insulin that has lost its potency due to freezing.

Drug manufacturers, therefore, have turned to material analysis to determine temperature’s effect on pharmaceuticals. Knowing what can happen to a medication during manufacturing, transport and storage is essential for quality control, as well as risk management. Both formulation and stabilization are critical to drug quality.

Differential Scanning Calorimetry and Medications

As noted in an article on Labmate-online, in an effort to better understand pharmaceutical transitions from solid states, the School of Pharmacy at The Robert Gordon University in Scotland has been studying the effects of differential scanning calorimetry (DCS) and thermogravimetry (TGA) “on the development of solid and liquid drug delivery systems.”

Headed By Dr. Kerr Matthews, the Scottish team has found,“[that] qualitative analysis [is] invaluable when used in conjunction with differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) or thermogravimetry (TGA), especially to corroborate assignment of phase transitions in solids or liquids.”

Dr. Kerr further noted, “With the ever increasing cost of pharmaceutical products, the importance of research into the formulation and stability of drugs has never been higher.”

What does this research mean for pharma and for consumers? With the help of differential scanning calorimetry, manufacturers have access to data that allows them to be sure the products they have produced are the highest quality possible. For consumers, there is peace of mind in knowing that their medications have been tested and found safe.

DSC or differential scanning calorimetry is a thermal analysis that measures heat flow in a sample as it goes through transitions from one phase to another (i.e. solid to liquid).

What industry application could DCS/TGA analysis help you with?

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