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New method could reduce surfactants used in medicines

A process of cooling drugs after they have been mixed with chemicals to make them easier to inject allowed scientists to create medicines containing hundreds of times less chemicals.

By Stephen Feller
New method could reduce surfactants used in medicines
Researchers used a cooling procedure to lower the level of sufactants in drug solutions, allowing for hundreds of times lower level of the chemicals, such as the injectable drug solution pictured. Photo by Dr. Jonathan Lovell/University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y., May 19 (UPI) -- Scientists in New York have found a way to reduce levels of chemicals used in medicine to make them more suitable for injection, potentially lowering risk for allergic reaction in patients.

Soap-like chemicals called surfactants can be used in the preparation of drugs but reduced using a cooling process that leaves hundreds of times less additives behind, according to a study from the University at Buffalo.

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While scientists have attempted to find a method of eliminating need for the chemicals by either shrinking drug particles to a size small enough for safe injection or by completely redesigning a drug's formulation, both have been either ineffective or painstakingly slow to develop.

In many cases, the drugs have to be packaged with other additives in order to reduce the need for surfactants, introducing the potential for new side effects.

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Like surfactants, all additives introduce the potential for anaphylactic shock, blood clotting, hemolysis and other side effects -- making elimination of all chemicals in drugs the real goal, researchers say.

"For the drugs we looked at, this is as close as anyone has gotten to introducing pure, injectable medicine into the body," Dr. Jonathan Lovell, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University at Buffalo, said in a press release. "Essentially, it's a new way to package drugs."

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For the study, published in the journal Nature: Communications, researchers dissolved 12 different drugs -- including some used for cancer, organ transplants and hormone treatment -- in a surfactant called Pluronic.

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The researchers then lowered the temperature of the mixture of drug and chemical to 4 degrees Celsius -- drugs are normally manufactured at room temperature -- allowing the Pluronic to be removed using a membrane.

The process stripped away nearly all free and loosely bound molecules, leaving a concentrated drug formulation with a measure of chemicals between 100 and 1,000 times less than medicines generally contain.

"We're excited because this process can be scaled up, which could make existing injectable drugs safer and more effective for millions of people suffering from serious diseases and ailments," Lovell said.

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