Guest Column | November 15, 2017

Emerging Best Practices For Contamination Management In Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

By Pavan Kumar Lakkakula, Beroe Inc.


Despite quality audits and third-party oversight, contamination of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products is still prevalent. This is despite the adoption of cGMP practices, SOPs, risk mitigation methods, and metrics such as key performance indicators. We evaluated various emerging practices to overcome contamination issues. Novel batch concentration tests and dedicated capacity utilization have proven to overcome the source of contaminants. For technology adoption in continuous manufacturing, which is unclear in terms of compliance, the FDA Emerging Technology Team could be used for advisory oversight. Other practices adopted include facility revisions on the use of oil-free air compressors, technologies such as detailed enterprise solutions, block chain, and measurement of critical attribute deviations. These have proven successful in both large and small molecule manufacturing processes. Retrospectively analysis to trace the source of contaminants, and therefore achieve increasingly contaminant-free finished goods, could be possible.

Identification Of The Source Of Contaminants

  • Analytical Test Revisions: Packaging material that comes in direct contact with OTC products needs to have a leachability test performed as a randomized test. Water used for washing and sterilizing packaging or related materials needs to be contaminant-free.
  • Batch Concentration Tests: Key contaminants with major adverse event effects are profiled, and relevant solvent is used to concentrate the contaminant from a sample taken from a larger batch. This allows the source of contamination to be detected when the contaminant is present at below-detectable levels. It is useful when multiple suppliers deliver products with below-detectable limits of contaminants.
  • Dedicated Capacity Utilization: Plant audits check the number of chemicals manufactured per plant to evaluate if the plant manufactures multiple chemicals or if the chemical is from one of the multiple by-products.

Use Of The FDA Emerging Technology Team

The FDA Emerging Technology Team accepts proposals on the use of new technologies to be reviewed prior to regulatory submission. This team focuses on working with pharmaceutical quality audit teams toward implementation of new technologies. New technologies such as gene expression and protein production platforms and sensitive antibody drug conjugate platforms could be evaluated with the FDA during a continuous manufacturing program to answer late-stage questions that may arise during approvals. This also allows an external monitoring agency to ask the right questions in advance that would allow the manufacturer to implement the expectations in SOPs for manufacturing and audits.

Facility Contaminant Risk Overcome By Oil-Free Compressors

Although a lot of emphasis is placed on air filters, such as the material and pore size of the filter, little has been placed on the compressor systems for air quality. Atmospheric air and lubricant oils have received a lot of attention as being the source of contaminants. Oil-free compressors are the new trend to prevent contamination. Both partial and fully oil-free compressors are widely employed. Certain manufacturers can reduce overall lubricant usage as well in the compressors and save on operational oversight in managing standard oil utilization.

Detailed Enterprise Technology Solutions Could Trace Contaminants

Most companies have adopted ERP systems that work across multiple industry service lines. Adoption of pharma manufacturing ERP systems with detailed compliance oversight has been relatively less preferred than simpler, cost-efficient models. Looking at formulation management, operation management, and real-time information allows retrospective audits to identify the source of contaminants and make data-driven decisions. Pharma manufacturing-specific ERP solutions have  specific features, such as FDA 21 CFR part 11 compliance sampling plans, stability testing, batch monitoring activities, electronic execution of SOPs, and QA as per cGMP standards. This has proven to support complete traceability, starting from the raw material to the finished product and packaging.

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Adoption Of Blockchain To Oversee OTC Batches

In certain cases, the source of the contaminant is a counterfeit drug or batches that have not been recorded in inventory. The use of RFID chips is costly. Rubix from Deloitte has noted the blockchain could impact drug safety, drug channels, and public safety. In addition, other startups such as iSolve, Blockverify, and Chronicled are focused on the pharmaceutical supply chain. Chronicled launched CryptoSeal, which are registered, adhesive seal strips containing a near-field communication (NFC) chip that can be customized per the manufacturer.

Overcoming Critical Quality Attributes (CQA) Deviation

CQA deviation from range could be due to several reasons, including aggregate content and degradation of raw material. The common factors reviewed and profiled are insoluble particulate matter impurities and the extent of contact between the single-use component and the batch including other endotoxins and microbial particulates. Risk evaluation in this case has been historically justified within permissible limits. However, if the frequency of risk were maintained as a stringent protocol, the chances of CQA deviation could be almost eliminated.


Exposure to contaminants during manufacturing can lead to cross-contamination, lower site ratings, and loss of revenue for manufacturers. It is therefore critical for companies to employ established and novel methods and procedures to prevent contamination. By ensuring that quality personnel are trained and audited in technology advances and novel processes, manufacturers can reduce contamination and minimize risk.


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About The Author:

Pavan Kumar Lakkakula is a senior analyst of healthcare R&D for Beroe Inc. He specializes in the pharmaceutical category of product development services. Previously, he worked as an associate business intelligence analyst for QuintilesIMS. He has a master’s degree in pharmacy with a background in pharmaceutics from Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University in Chennai, India. You can contact him at