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Trends in Solvent Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry

By Mariano J. Savelski1, C. Stewart Slater1

1. Rowan University

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The optimization of solvent use and the reduction of waste generation in pharmaceutical industry, have become key elements in the improvement of the overall environmental footprint . Solvent selection and solvent substitution practices, elimination of hazardous solvents, and purification, reuse and recycling opportunities are all been explored as means to reduce solvent use and waste generation. The goal is to make a better process in the early stages of clinical development when changes can more readily be made. A particular area of research interest is in solvent recovery where distillation has been traditionally used for large scale recovery trains and newer approaches are being considered. Membrane pervaporation can play a role in the separation of complex azeotropic separations as it can be effectively integrated with traditional distillation in solvent dehydration. Studies using basic design parameters and life cycle analyses show how integrated solvent recovery systems can reduce emissions when examining the entire life cycle. The data from the U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) is one metric to measure changes in the use and disposition of solvents in the pharmaceutical industry. According to the TRI, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States has consistently generated one of the highest volumes of waste per finished product. The top ten solvents account for more than 80% of the waste generated. Over the last ten years the industry has reduced solvent use and waste generation, but there are still opportunities for reduction and recovery technologies to improve productivity further. According to the TRI report, the majority of solvent waste, approximately 70%, was treated or recycled and 30% used for energy recovery. Only a small percent is still directly released into the environment.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Mariano J. Savelski; C. Stewart Slater (2013), "Trends in Solvent Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry,"

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