Applications of Solvent Extraction in Pharmacy

Applications of Solvent Extraction in Pharmacy

We’ve all taken medications at one time or another, and some of us even on a daily basis, but have you ever stopped to think about the science behind your medicine? Pharmacy is the science of medication and encompasses the research, development, and manufacturing of drugs and medicinal substances. Naturally occurring and synthetic materials can be used together to create effective drugs used to cure and aid several health conditions. During the industrial synthesis of drugs, it is often important to separate the drug from the other chemicals needed to perform the reaction. This removal and purification of the target material is usually performed through a process known as solvent extraction.

To understand a bit more of the context in which extraction takes place, read on for a basic explanation of industrial drug manufacturing.

Basic Steps of Drug Synthesis

Most drug production in industrial pharmacies occurs through the same simple steps as described below:

STEP 1: Reaction

Chemicals are manipulated to create or amplify the active ingredient that will be used in the final drug product.

STEP 2: Separation

The drug material is isolated from byproducts or reactants; this is where extraction typically takes place.

STEP 3: Purification

At this point, the drug is usually dissolved in a solvent, so it is then removed from the solution through crystallization.

STEP 4: Drying

The solid drug material is dried to create a powder that can be distributed commercially or incorporated into other products.

The extraction, which occurs during the second step of drug production, is crucial to creating drugs without impurities, and ideally is done without losing too much of the product to waste.

Common Types of Solvent Extraction Used in Industrial Pharmacy

Depending on the final drug being manufactured, different extraction methods and solvent combinations work more efficiently.

Here are a few of the advanced methods used in large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturing:

  • Reflux = A method of boiling and recondensing fluid
  • Soxhlet = “Hot continuous” uses a specific piece of equipment called a Soxhlet Extractor
  • Pressurized Liquid  = Accelerated solvent method
  • Supercritical Fluid = Using supercritical fluids (which exist only at extremely high temperatures and pressures and are in-between gas and liquid phases) as a solvent
  • Hydro or Steam Distillation = Separates and condenses liquid removed through boiling (think moonshine stills)
  • Ultrasound Assisted
  • Microwave Assisted
  • Pulsed Electric Field
  • Enzyme Assisted

These methods all involve the active ingredient being removed from the starting material and transferred between phases (solid-liquid extraction) or different solvents (liquid-liquid extraction).

Energy or motion of different varieties is applied during this process to make transference more efficient, typically by causing the two materials to interact more frequently.

Need to Perform Industrial Pharmacy Extractions?

Extraction Grade Solvents is happy to help you with all your industrial needs. Contact us today to learn more about the best extraction methods and materials!