Dario Braga


The relevance of crystal forms in the pharmaceutical field: sword of Damocles or innovation tools?

Dario Braga, Lucia Casali and Fabrizia Grepioni Department of Chemistry G. Ciamician, University of Bologna, Via Selmi 2, 40126 Bologna, Italy.

Abstract: This review is aimed to provide to an “educated but non-expert” readership an overview of the scientific, commercial, and ethical importance of investigating crystalline forms (polymorphs, hydrates and co-crystals) of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). The existence of multiple crystal forms of an API is relevant not only for the selection of the best solid material to carry through the various stages of drug development, including the choice of dosage and of excipients suitable for drug development and marketing, but also in terms of intellectual property protection and/or extension. This is because the physico-chemical properties, such as solubility, dissolution rate, thermal stability, processability etc., of the solid API may depend, sometimes dramatically, on the crystal form, with important implications on the drug ultimate efficacy. This review will recount how the scientific community and the pharmaceutical industry learned from the catastrophic consequences of the appearance of new, more stable and unsuspected crystal forms. The relevant aspects of hydrates, the most common pharmaceutical solid solvates, and of co-crystals, the association of two or more solid components in the same crystalline materials will also be discussed. Examples will be provided of how to tackle multiple crystal forms with screening protocols and theoretical approaches, and ultimately how to turn into discovery and innovation the purposed preparation of new crystalline forms of an API.

Keywords: crystal polymorphism; hydrates; co-crystals of active pharmaceuticals

Other publications