ICP-MS with Autodilution and Autocalibration for Implementing the New USP Chapters on Elemental Impurities

Nov 01, 2012
Volume 27, Issue 10

This article describes the use of an in-line, autodilution, and autocalibration sample delivery system coupled to an inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry system to analyze a group of over-the-counter pharmaceutical products. The study will follow the method protocol outlined in the recently approved USP Chapters <232> and <233> on the determination of elemental impurities in the major four drug delivery systems.

The standard method for measuring elemental impurities in pharmaceutical products has been based on a 100-year-old "Heavy Metals Test," described in Chapter <231> of the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP)National Formulary (NF) (1). This test involves precipitation of the metal sulfide in the sample, and compares the intensity and color of the precipitate to a lead standard. Even though this test has been used for more than 100 years, it is well-accepted that it is prone to error because it is not specific to any particular heavy metal, it suffers from quite severe matrix interferences, it is prone to very low recoveries, and it requires a skilled analyst to interpret the color correctly. For this reason, four years ago the USP organization set up an expert committee to investigate the viability of alternative analytical approaches to get around all these problems and replace Chapter <231> with a more robust and reliable instrumental technique.

In April 2012, USP came out with a brand new inductively coupled plasma–optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) and inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) method to determine a group of metallic contaminants in pharmaceutical products. This method was summarized in General Chapter <232> entitled "Elemental Impurities – Limits" and Chapter <233> entitled "Elemental Impurities – Analytical Procedures,", which will be published in the Second Supplement to USP 35–NF 30 on December 1, 2012 (2). Pharmaceutical stakeholders will then have until May 2014 to implement these changes and be consistent with the new method described in Chapters <232> and <233>.

This study focuses on the practical benefits of an ICP-MS system coupled to an in-line, autodilution, and autocalibration sample delivery system to determine a group of toxicologically relevant elements in various pharmaceutical products. It provides an overview of the USP methodology with particular emphasis on the impurity levels and the recommended analytical procedure. It also analyzes some common pharmaceutical products covering the major drug delivery systems of oral, intravenous, and inhalational, and presents performance figures of merit for the system based on the USP validation protocol for the method.

Elemental Impurities in Pharmaceutical Products

Chapter <232> specifies the list of elements and their toxicity limits, defined as maximum daily doses of the different drug categories — oral, parenteral (intravenous injection), inhalation, and large-volume parenteral, whereas Chapter <233> deals with the sample preparation, analytical procedure, and quality control (QC) validation protocol for measuring the elements, including the choice of either inductively coupled plasma–atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), ICP-MS, or the use of an alternative technique as long as it is fully validated to be acceptable and equivalent to the plasma-based procedures described in the method.


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