All opinions are my own.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pharmaceuticals: What is Holding Back Quality By Design?

We come across many TLAs and their number is increasing. What is a TLA? It stands for “three letter acronym”.

In the regulatory world, TLAs keep us on our toes. In the pharmaceutical world two TLAs are in vogue. They are QBA and QBD. Everyone associated with the manufacture of pharmaceuticals is familiar with these acronyms. But just to re-iterate, QBA is product “quality by analysis” and QBD is “quality by design”. QBA is the current tradition of the pharmaceutical manufacturing processes whereas QBD presents what the technology should be or the future.

Level of going on discussion is suggestive of that there is a significant hesitation to improve technology. One has to ask the question, why it is so difficult to move from “A” to “D” and I am sure many have. There has to be a monumental hurdle/roadblock for the pharmaceuticals to move from QBA to QBD.

I do not think there are any hurdles. We are just up against tradition. Since the traditions are entrenched in pharmaceuticals, we have accepted the current manufacturing practices. They have not been challenged. We are also afraid of the “Regulatory Gods”. Move from QBA to QBD is very simple and the roadblock is staring at us. However, it has not been obvious to us. I define the hurdle/roadblock for the move from “A” to “D” to be “the isolation of intermediates of the reaction or the formulation steps”. The mantra for QBD is “stopping isolation of intermediates”.

If we isolate a reaction product after every reaction step or a mix after every formulation step to test the quality and the conversion yield, we are acknowledging that we do not have a complete understanding, control of the process step and its mechanism. If we did have the understanding, we would not be isolating the reaction step and/or blend intermediate and testing them for their quality.

Specialty/Fine chemical industry by and large has a complete understanding and control of the processes. It does not necessitate isolation of the intermediates, as the quality is designed in the products. If we can achieve the same level of proficiency for the pharmaceuticals, we would move from quality by “A” [analysis] to quality by “D” [design].

In the pharmaceutical industry move from “A” → “D”, will be a major accomplishment in simplifying the manufacturing technologies and processes. It will not only improve process efficiencies and but also reduce the carbon footprint of the fine, specialty chemicals and the pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. It will reduce the cycle time for many batch processes and could nudge quite a few products to be manufactured by continuous processes.

Jumping the “A” to “D” hurdle is simple and easy. We just have to set our heart and mind to it. If it happens, my conjecture is the even the “Regulatory Gods” will celebrate.

EPCOT International

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