Pharmaceutical industry facing acute crisis owing to the world-wide shortage of Acetonitrile

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The acute shortage of Acetonitrile is caused by a series of events that took place in the year 2008. The production of acetonitrile dropped significantly in China as they were busily involved in hosting the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. To minimize air pollution, Chinese factories producing Acetonitrile were asked to shut down. 

After the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the export of Acetonitrile was minimized extensively with restrictions and bans brought about the new import policies.  During the same period, there were active hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico leading to an interruption in the manufacturing of Acetonitrile in Texas. However, the most important setback on the manufacturing of acetonitrile was brought about with the worldwide slowdown of the economy that began in the year 2008.

The pharmaceutical and chemical industry is facing a major hurdle with acute shortage of acetonitrile. Acetonitrile is a major solvent that is used in chromatographic analysis (HPLC). Acetonitrile has been widely used for quality control analysis in the pharmaceutical industry. Quality control analysis of finished products plays a pivotal role before the medications can be released in batches.

In most parts of the world, acetonitrile, which is a form of cyanide, is generally obtained as a by product during the manufacture of plastic components, which are used extensively in the automobile industry. The by-product obtained during the manufacturing of plastic is subjected to refining process in order to synthesize Acetonitrile.

As the supply of acetonitrile is decreasing exponentially, pharmaceutical companies that use acetonitrile in HPLC and other chromatrographic processes have been asked to manage their supplies of this material. They have also been asked to investigate the wastage of this pure solvent in industrial refining processes.

Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture solid dose medications are usually quite successful in recovering back acetonitrile solvent from a mixture of waste solvents. But, companies that are involved in the manufacture of sterile liquid injectables cannot recover acetonitrile liquid in the pure form but in the aqueous form.

As the supplies of acetonitrile are continuously declining, most pharmaceutical companies consider it is quite important to recycle the HPLC solvent waste containing recoverable Acetonitrile rather than subjecting it to traditional disposal.

In order to cope with the world-wide shortage of acetonitrile solvent, all pharmaceutical companies have been asked to build up a pooling system that contains their HPLC wastes. The overall bulk of HPLC waste solvent will be then subjected to recovery processes so that the acetonitrile solvent is recyclable and reusable.

Recovering acetonitrile from the HPLC solvent waste may not actually form the crux of the solution. However, pharmaceutical companies will be at least able to deal with the acute shortage of acetonitrile solvent that is used extensively in HPLC processes.

In this way, the supplies of acetonitrile will be able to last for a relatively longer period of time. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are exploring other alternative laboratory techniques such as UPLC for the process of testing and quality control of products. They are also devising other kinds of solvents that could be used in place of acetonitrile.

In conclusion, the pharmaceutical industry is feeling the pinch of finding alternate solutions to overcome the present shortage of Acetonitrile solvent. So, innovations in analytical procedures used for testing and validating drugs are advised. Several research techniques are being devised to bring about reduction in the extensive use of acetonitrile solvent. Analytical techniques are also being modified in a way that acetonitrile solvent can be replaced successfully.  The global shortage of acetonitrile solvent has urged the need to bring about innovation and optimization.


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