Surface Acidity and Solid-State Compatibility of Excipients with an Acid-Sensitive API: Case Study of Atorvastatin Calcium

Ramprakash Govindarajan, Margaret Landis, Bruno Hancock, Larry A. Gatlin, Raj Suryanarayanan, Evgenyi Y. Shalaev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The objectives of this study were to measure the apparent surface acidity of common excipients and to correlate the acidity with the chemical stability of an acid-sensitive active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) in binary API-excipient powder mixtures. The acidity of 26 solid excipients was determined by two methods, (i) by measuring the pH of their suspensions or solutions and (ii) the pH equivalent (pHeq) measured via ionization of probe molecules deposited on the surface of the excipients. The chemical stability of an API, atorvastatin calcium (AC), in mixtures with the excipients was evaluated by monitoring the appearance of an acid-induced degradant, atorvastatin lactone, under accelerated storage conditions. The extent of lactone formation in AC-excipient mixtures was presented as a function of either solution/suspension pH or pHeq. No lactone formation was observed in mixtures with excipients having pHeq > 6, while the lactone levels were pronounced (> 0.6% after 6 weeks at 50°C/20% RH) with excipients exhibiting pHeq < 3. The three pHeq regions (> 6, 3–6, and < 3) were consistent with the reported solution pH-stability profile of AC. In contrast to the pHeq scale, lactone formation did not show any clear trend when plotted as a function of the suspension/solution pH. Two mechanisms to explain the discrepancy between the suspension/solution pH and the chemical stability data were discussed. Acidic excipients, which are expected to be incompatible with an acid-sensitive API, were identified based on pHeq measurements. The incompatibility prediction was confirmed in the chemical stability tests using AC as an example of an acid-sensitive API.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-363
Number of pages10
JournalAAPS PharmSciTech
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 16 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.


  • acidity
  • atorvastatin
  • excipients
  • pH indicators
  • solid-state stability


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