An improved thermoanalytical approach to quantifying trace levels of polymorphic impurity in drug powders

Henry H.Y. Tong, Boris Y. Shekunov, John P. Chan, Cedric K.F. Mok, Henry C.M. Hung, Albert H.L. Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate quantification of impurities existing as separate crystalline phases at trace levels in drug materials is an important issue in the pharmaceutical industry. In the present study, a thermoanalytical approach previously developed for quantifying trace levels of polymorphic impurity (form II metastable nuclei) in commercial salmeterol xinafoate powders has been successfully applied with slight modifications to ribavirin, an antiviral drug exhibiting roughly similar polymorph-dependent crystallization kinetics in melts to that of salmeterol xinafoate. Essentially, the approach involved modeling of the crystallization kinetics of both tested and reference drug materials in melts using the Avrami-Erofe'ev (AE) rate expression, derivation of a mathematical equation for relating the AE kinetic constant to the composition of reference polymorph mixtures, and the use of this derived equation (in the form of a calibration curve) to calculate the impurity contents of the tested samples from their computed AE constants. For ribavirin, modification of the latter equation by incorporation of an empirical exponent was found necessary to account for the composition-dependent changes in crystallization kinetics of the reference mixtures. Such modification has made possible the determination of polymorphic impurity content of as low as 0.004% (w/w) in ribavirin samples induced by different forms of grinding treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-199
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2005


  • Avrami's equation
  • Enantiotropic polymorphism
  • Melt crystallization kinetics
  • Polymorphic impurity determination
  • Ribavirin
  • Thermal analysis


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