Powder processing is one of the most common ways to manufacture most medications. Since it can process ingredients in bulk, it is also one of the most efficient ways to make sure the demands for these pharmaceuticals are met in a timely manner. Unfortunately, any time you work with bulk materials, especially in powdered forms, you run the risk of improperly mixing ingredients, components spoiling because of environmental factors, or a variety of other problems.
This is one of the major problems we face when utilizing powder processing in the medical industry. A strong quality assurance (QA) or quality control (QC) presence can help to prevent a lot of these problems, as well as the potential harm they could cause if improperly mixed medicines are allowed to reach the general public.
The Importance of Quality Control
The pharmaceutical industry isn’t the only one that works with powders and powder-based materials. If you’ve ever used a powdered drink mix or a dry soup mix, then you have a bit of experience with the concept of powder processing.
Quality control in any powder-processing environment is essential to make sure the products being produced are safe, properly handled and formulated correctly.
Quality control and quality assurance shouldn’t just be at the end of the production line, either. In order to ensure producing the best and highest quality product, there should be QA and QC teams in place from beginning to end — from raw material gathering to checking the finished product.
When dealing with pharmaceuticals, a good QA team could potentially prevent a host of problems, like:
· Dosage problems: It’s essential to make sure the products are mixed correctly, or you’ll end up with batches of highly concentrated medicine and batches that are nothing more than filler material.
· Consistency: In order to be pressed into their final form, most powder-processed pharmaceuticals require a certain consistency and moisture content in order to hold their finished shape. If you’ve got too little moisture, they’ll crumble apart. On the other hand, too much moisture will leave you with a mushy pile of mud instead. Additionally, if the product has to be screened or filtered and it’s too thick, it will likely be unable to pass through the necessary filters.
· Bacterial Growth: While this isn’t a problem with most materials, any risk of bacterial growth should be minimized.
This outlines just a few of the things a vigilant quality control team should be on the lookout for when dealing with powder-processing systems.
Powder Processing vs. The Environment
As with any manufacturing system, powder processing can be easily and often negatively affected by the environment in and around the manufacturing facility. Even the areas in which the facility is located can affect production efficiency and final product quality.
Humidity, for example, is a constant threat, especially in areas like the southeastern United States where the humidity is high throughout the year. Without the ability to monitor and control the ambient humidity in a manufacturing facility, you could potentially face production difficulties when your powders absorb the moisture and begin to clump. If left unchecked, this could make production difficult, if not impossible.
Extreme temperatures, either high or low, in an unregulated environment could also prove detrimental to production. In addition to making manufacturing more difficult, extreme temperatures could damage the efficacy of the pharmaceutical powders, making them less likely to work as intended.
When working with a powder-processing system, consider investing in an efficient environmental control system that allows you to control factors such as temperature, humidity, and air movement to keep any of these things from potentially damaging your manufacturing system.
Additionally, an efficient and well-trained quality control/quality assurance team is your best defense when it comes to manufacturing problems. Quick and accurate tests that allow your team to verify the consistency, efficacy, and dosage of the medications being produced will be helpful as well.
By Megan Ray Nichols