Exploring the role of anti-solvent effects during washing on active pharmaceutical ingredient purity

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Washing is a key step in pharmaceutical isolation to remove the unwanted crystallization solvent (mother liquor) from the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) filter cake. This study looks at strategies for optimal wash solvent selection, which minimizes the dissolution of API product crystals while preventing the precipitation of product or impurities. Selection of wash solvents to avoid both these phenomena can be challenging but is essential to maintain the yield, purity, and particle characteristics throughout the isolation process. An anti-solvent screening methodology has been developed to quantitatively evaluate the propensity for precipitation of APIs and their impurities of synthesis during washing. This is illustrated using paracetamol (PCM) and two typical impurities of synthesis during the washing process. The solubility of PCM in different binary wash solutions was measured to provide a basis for wash solvent selection. A map of wash solution composition boundaries for precipitation for the systems investigated was developed to depict where anti-solvent phenomena will take place. For some crystallization and wash solvent combinations investigated, as much as 90% of the dissolved PCM and over 10% of impurities present in the PCM saturated mother liquor were found to precipitate out. Such levels of uncontrolled crystallization during washing in a pharmaceutical isolation process can have a drastic effect on the final product purity. Precipitation of both the product and impurities from the mother liquor can be avoided by using a solvent in which the API has a solubility similar to that in the mother liquor; for example, the use of acetonitrile as a wash solvent does not result in precipitation of either the PCM API or its impurities. However, the high solubility of PCM in acetonitrile would result in noticeable dissolution of API during washing and would lead to agglomeration during the subsequent drying step. Contrarily, the use of n-heptane as a wash solvent for a PCM crystal slurry resulted in the highest amount of precipitation among the solvent pairs evaluated. This can be mitigated by designing a multi-stage washing strategy where wash solutions of differing wash solvent concentrations are used to minimize step changes in solubility when the mother liquor and the wash solvent come into contact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-981
Number of pages13
JournalOrganic Process Research and Development
Issue number4
Early online date12 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2021


  • isolation strategy
  • washing
  • anti-solvent effect
  • precipitation
  • Optimisation


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