Friday, May 28, 2010

Are Generic Pills Harder to Swallow?

By Ashley M. Jones

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell just as sweet” – It’s a good thing William Shakespeare lived much before the drug companies were around or he could never have come up with such an amazing statement. Today, there are drugs, and then there are drugs; and more than what’s inside or its efficacy, it’s the name that seems to matter. If you were asked to choose between a branded drug and its generic equivalent, given that their costs were almost the same, you would most probably go for the branded version. So why are generic pills harder to swallow than their branded counterparts?

Although generic medicines are much cheaper than branded drugs (they are priced lower because they can be manufactured only after the patent runs its course and so do not include the R&D costs that the big pharmaceutical companies incur when they manufacture new drugs), at an equal price, people prefer to buy the latter for various reasons.

For one, they may not want to call their doctor to verify that the generic equivalents are safe and the bioequivalent of the branded drug - the most important aspect to consider when you’re buying generic equivalents is to ensure that they are the bioequivalent of the branded drug you’ve been prescribed. Even if you know the active pharmacological ingredient in a drug, you may not be sure if the generic equivalent with the same active ingredient can be used as a reliable and safe substitute. For example, there are certain medicines that should not be substituted, like for example drugs that have the same active pharmacological ingredient but which are modified release and intermediate release pills respectively. These are different dosage forms, and hence not bioequivalent.

Also, some people may feel that generic drugs are not of the same quality as their branded equivalent. It’s not true of course, but perception is everything when it comes to drugs and medication. That’s why we find that even placebos work sometimes, because there are some diseases and illnesses that are cured by the power of the mind. So if you believe that a drug is inferior, your mind is going to block your recovery even though the drug is really efficient.

The key to choosing the best generic drugs is to go with those that your doctor prescribes or recommends. If you’re sure of the quality, generic pills become much easier to both swallow and digest.

This article is contributed by Ashley M. Jones, who regularly writes on the subject of Online Pharmacy Technician Certification. She invites your questions, comments at her email address:

RMC Pharmaceutical Solutions welcomes guest posts related to pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices and other related topics.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Using porcine trypsin in biologics manufacture?

by Dr. Ray Nims

On March 22, 2010, a press release from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that porcine circovirus 1 (PCV 1) DNA had been detected in their rotavirus vaccine. On May 6, Merck disclosed that it had found DNA fragments of both PCV types 1 and 2 in its rotavirus vaccine. The PCV 2 findings in Merck's vaccine may be of greater concern, due to the fact that this virus causes disease in pigs, while PCV 1 apparently does not. However, the relative amounts of PCV DNA found in the GSK vaccine appear to be much greater (the lab discovering the PCV DNA in the GSK vaccine did not detect any in the Merck vaccine), and the worry in this case is that some of the genomic material may be associated with infectious PCV 1 virus. In both cases, the presence of the PCV genomic material has been attributed to the use of porcine trypsin at some point in the vaccine manufacturing process.

The FDA convened an advisory committee meeting on May 7th to discuss the findings of PCV DNA in the two licensed rotavirus vaccines. What was the result of the advisory committee meeting? The advisory committee felt that the benefits of the rotavirus vaccines clearly outweigh the risks. This, added to the fact that there appears to be little human health hazard associated with these viruses, led to the FDA clearing the two vaccines for continued use on May 14th. The product labels will be updated to reflect the presence of the PCV DNA in these products. In the longer term, these products may need to be "reengineered" to remove the PCV DNA. This may involve the preparation of new Master and Working cell banks and thus will take some time.

Another likely outcome of the advisory committee’s meeting may be heightened expectations, going forward, for PCV screening of porcine raw materials and of Master and Working cell banks which were exposed to porcine ingredients (e.g., trypsin) at some point in their development. Porcine-derived raw materials which are used in the production of biologics are to be tested per 9 CFR 113.53 Requirements for ingredients of animal origin used for production of biologics for a variety of viruses of concern. In the case of ingredients of porcine origin, those viruses of concern are listed in 9 CFR 113.47 Detection of extraneous viruses by the fluorescent antibody technique. These include rabies, bovine viral diarrhea virus, REO virus, porcine adenovirus, porcine parvovirus, transmissible gastroenteritis virus, and porcine hemagglutinating encephalitis virus. While porcine circovirus may not be specifically mentioned in the 9 CFR requirements, it will be prudent to add a nucleic acid-based assay for detection of this virus to the porcine raw material testing battery going forward. Similarly, Master and Working cell banks exposed to porcine raw materials (e.g., trypsin) during their developmental history should be assayed for PCV prior to use.

Routine nucleic acid-based testing for PCV should detect the genomic sequences for this virus should intact infectious or non-infectious PCV be present in the test materials. Now that this virus is one of concern to the FDA and to the public, performing the appropriate raw material and cell bank testing for it will most likely become an expectation for vaccine and biologics manufacturers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bending the Curve

By Dr. Scott Rudge

To understand the best ways to develop preparative and industrial scale adsorption separations in biotechnology, it’s critical to understand the thermodynamics of solute binding. In this blog, I’ll review some basics of the Langmuir binding isotherm. This isotherm is a fairly simplistic view of adsorption and desorption, however, it applies fairly well to typical protein separations, such as ion exchange and affinity chromatography.

A chemical solution that is brought into contact with a resin that has binding sites for that chemical will partition between the solution phase and the resin phase. The partitioning will be driven by some form of affinity or equilibrium, that can be considered fairly constant at constant solution phase conditions. By “solution phase conditions”, I mean temperature, pH, conductivity, salt and other modifier concentrations. Changing these conditions changes the equilibrium partitioning. If we represent the molecule in solution by “c” and the same molecule adsorbed to the resin by “q”, then the simple mathematical relationship is:

If the capacity of the resin for the chemical is unlimited, then this is the end of the story, the equilibrium is “linear” and the behavior of the adsorption is easy to understand as the dispersion is completely mass transfer controlled. A example of this is size exclusion chromatography, where the resin has no affinity for the chemical, it simply excludes solutes larger than the pore or polymer mesh length. For resins where there are discrete “sites” to which the chemical might bind, or a finite “surface” of some kind with which the chemical has some interaction, then the equilibrium is described by:

and the maximum capacity of the resin has to be accounted for with a “site” balance, such as shown below:

Where Stot represents the total number of binding sites, and S0 represents the number of binding sites not occupied by the chemical of interest. The math becomes a little more complicated when you worry about what might be occupying that site, or if you want to know what happens when the molecule of interest occupies more than one site at a time. We’ll leave these important considerations for another day. Typically, the total sites can be measured. Resin vendors use terms such as “binding capacity” or “dynamic binding capacity” to advertise the capacity of their resins. The capacity is often dependent on the chemical of interest. The resulting relationship between c and q is no longer linear, it is represented by this equation:

When c is small, the denominator of this equation becomes 1, and the equilibrium equation looks like the linear equilibrium equation. When c is large, the denominator becomes Keqc, and the resin concentration of the chemical is equal to the resin capacity, Stot. When c is in between small and large, the isotherm bends over in a convex shape. This is shown in the graph below.

There are three basic conditions in preparative and industrial chromatographic operations. In the first, Keq is very low, and there is little or no binding of the chemical to the resin. This is represented by the red squares in the graph above. This is the case with “flow through” fractions in chromatography, and would generally be the case when the chemical has the same charge as the resin. In the third, Keq is very high, and the chemical is bound quantitatively to the resin, even at low concentrations. This is represented by the green triangles in the graph above. This is the case with chemicals that are typically only released when the column is “stripped” or “regenerated”. In these cases, the solution phase conditions are changed to turn Keq from a large number to a small number during the regeneration by using a high salt concentration or an extreme pH. The second case is the most interesting, and is the condition for most “product” fractions, where a separation is being made. That is, when the solution phase conditions are tuned so that the desired product is differentially adsorbing and desorbing, allowing other chemicals with slightly higher or lower affinities to elute either before or after the desired product, it is almost always the case that the equilibrium constant is not such that binding is quantitative or non-existent. In these cases, the non-linearity of the isotherm has consequences for the shape of the elution peak. We will discuss these consequences in a future blog.

In a “Quality-by-Design” world, these non-linearities would be understood and accounted for the in the design of the chromatography operation. An excellent example of the resulting non-linearity of the results was shown by Oliver Kaltenbrunner in 2008

Relying on linear statistics to uncover this basic thermodynamic behavior is a fool’s errand. However, using basic lab techniques (a balance and a spectrophotometer) the isotherm for your product of interest can be determined directly, and the chromatographic behavior understood. This is the path to process understanding!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus: a future troublemaker?

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) is a double-stranded RNA virus of family Reoviridae, genus Orbivirus. This is a non-enveloped virus of approximately 60-80 nm size. This arbovirus is transmitted by a biting midge of genus Culicoides, and is closely related to another Orbivirus, the bluetongue virus. Two serotypes are endemic to cattle in North America (EHDV-1 and EHDV-2); the infections caused tend to be subclinical (asymptomatic) and therefore may go undetected.

Infections in cattle are more prevalent in areas of widespread infection within the local deer population. As shown in the figure below, the geographic distribution of infection of deer populations with EHDV and bluetongue virus includes areas within the high plains and mountain states in which bovine serum production is high (Utah, Kansas, etc.).

From Daniel Mead, Risk of Introduction of New Vector-borne Zoonoses

There have been recent outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in cattle in Indiana (2006) as well as other states; in Israel (2006); and in Turkey (2007).

Basis of Concern: EHDV has been isolated previously from a biologics manufacturing process employing a Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell substrate (Rabenau et al. Contamination of genetically engineered CHO-cells by epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV). Biologicals 21, 207-214, 1993). The infection was presumed, but not proven, to originate from use of a contaminated bovine serum in the manufacturing process.

Regulatory Expectations. EHDV is not mentioned specifically in 9CFR 113.47 (Detection of extraneous viruses by the fluorescent antibody technique as a virus of concern for raw materials of bovine origin), although this regulation requires testing for the closely related bluetongue virus. EHDV would be expected to cause cytopathic effects in Vero cells, one of the detector cells used in the 9CFR 113.47 assay, therefore this assay should detect the virus in grossly contaminated bovine sera.

Mitigating Risk. Elimination of animal-derived materials (esp. bovine sera) from the manufacturing process should reduce the risk of experiencing this virus. If this is not possible, treatment of the sera should be considered. Gamma-irradiation of the frozen serum at the dosages normally used should be effective, judging from results obtained with REO virus, another member of the family Reoviridae (Gauvin, 2009).

Conclusions. EHDV has been found previously to contaminate a biologics manufacturing process employing a CHO-cell substrate. It is therefore a virus of concern for the biopharmaceutical industry. Risk of infection of biological products with EHDV through use of bovine-derived materials such as bovine sera may increase in the event of future outbreaks of this disease in cattle from serum-producing regions of North America or Australia. Risk may be mitigated through implementation of gamma-irradiation of bovine sera and of viral purification processes capable of removing and inactivating non-enveloped viruses such as MMV and REO.