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Pharm Res. 2013 Jun;30(6):1628-41. doi: 10.1007/s11095-013-1002-y. Epub 2013 Mar 20.

Formulating weakly basic HCl salts: relative ability of common excipients to induce disproportionation and the unique deleterious effects of magnesium stearate.

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West Point Analytical Sciences, Merck Research Laboratories, P.O. Box 4, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486, USA.



Nine common excipients were examined to determine their ability to cause disproportionation of the HCl salt of a a weakly basic compound. The goal was to determine which excipients were problematic and correlate the results to known properties such as surface pH, slurry pH, or molecular structure. Such a correlation enables a general, simple excipient selection process.


Binary compacts and "pseudo formulations" are studied after stressing at 40°C/75%RH and 40°C/35% RH for up to 28 days. Near-Infrared (NIR) and X-Ray powder diffraction (XRPD) measurements monitored the conversion of the HCl salt to the free base.


The excipients which induced measureable disproportionation were magnesium stearate, sodium croscarmellose, and sodium stearyl fumarate. Magnesium stearate induced the most extensive and rapid disproportionation at 40°C/75%RH and 40°C/35%RH. Samples containing magnesium stearate showed a unique and significant water uptake above 31%RH.


The problematic excipients are best explained by the proton accepting capacity of excipient carboxylate groups which have pK(a)'s higher than the pH(max) of the drug salt. Alternative lubricants and disintegrants are suggested and a simple excipient screening process is proposed. Magnesium stearate was the most deleterious excipient for HCl salts due to the formation of the deliquescent salt magnesium chloride.

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