University of Texas at Austin Pharmacy Researcher Works to Lower Carbon Footprint of Pharmaceuticals

The eco-friendly green solvent ethyl lactate can be stabilized and used as a binding agent in the production and processing of pharmaceuticals, lowering the carbon footprint of the industry, a University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy researcher has found.

Jason McConville's research will be published in an upcoming issue of Pharmaceutical Technology.

"It is widely accepted that companies have a responsibility to take steps to manage their impact on the environment," said McConville, who specializes in drug delivery and formulation design. "Many pharmaceutical companies are striving to lower their carbon footprint, and one way of doing this is to use renewable ingredients in their products."

Ingredients produced from renewable crops, such as corn and sugar cane, have much less of an environmental impact than those derived from non-renewal sources such as oil, he added. A significant proportion of drug products marketed today include processing steps that use petroleum-derived products.

Ethyl lactate is an organic solvent formed by the chemical reaction of lactic acid and ethanol, both of which may be naturally produced from the fermentation of corn. The compound has been used before in the cosmetic and food industries.

McConville wanted to determine if ethyl lactate could be stabilized, so that it might be used for production and processing purposes in the pharmaceutical industry. By using a naturally occurring antioxidant, such as vitamin C, he found that ethyl lactate could be stabilized for several months at elevated temperatures.

Ethyl lactate is biodegradable and hydrolyzes in the presence of water back into lactic acid and ethanol, its starting components.

"This eco-friendly solvent is soluble in alcohol and water, but insoluble in paraffin oil," said McConville. "These properties make it desirable as a functional pharmaceutical binding agent."

McConville has started looking at the use of other renewable ingredients for pharmaceutical drug delivery applications.