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Excipients in parenteral formulations: selection considerations and effective utilization with small molecules and biologics


Excipients form a major component of pharmaceutical formulations and are classified as any ingredient other than the active ingredient which is included within the product formulation to improve drug product performance. Functional uses of excipients include improving solubility and stability, safety and efficacy, as bulking agents in lyophilized formulations, tonicity agents, and aiding in controlled or prolonged drug delivery. Parenteral formulations are sterile, pyrogen-free; free of particulate matter and by-pass the body’s natural defence mechanisms. Excipients may demonstrate a synergistic effect when combined with an active ingredient but may also lead to unwanted reactions with the drugs and packaging components. Ideal excipients are required to be considered safe, inert and multifunctional. Contrary to the past, safety of excipients needs to be well established in order for their use in the pharmaceutical formulations. Therefore, careful consideration should be given while selecting an excipient. This review article provides an overview of the excipients used exclusively in small molecule and biological parenteral products including solutions, suspensions, and lyophilized formulations, information on the possible drug-excipient and drug-packaging interactions and the regulatory requirements for the use of pharmaceutical excipients. The readers will be able to have a comprehensive understanding of the excipients used in parenteral formulations.