The use of organic solvents for coating solid oral dosage forms has diminished over the past decade because many harmful effects are associated with exposure to these solvents. Acute effects of solvent inhalation in humans and animals include narcosis, anesthesia, central-nervous-system depression, and respiratory problems (1). As a result, the industry has shifted from organic-based systems to aqueous-based technologies. Tablet coating is a prime example of this change.
Advantages and properties of ethyl lactate
Ethylcellulose and acrylic polymers, which traditionally used either acetone or isopropyl alcohol (IPA), have been replaced by popular latex and pseudolatex systems such as the Eudragit (Evonik, Darmstadt, Germany) and Aquacoat (FMC BioPolymer, Philadelphia) product lines of coating dispersions. The advantages of these systems include a reduced health risk for the operator, a reduction in environmental contamination, low cost, and low risk of combustion or explosion. A disadvantage of aqueous coating systems is that they generally require more energy because of the low vapor pressure of water. Also, an increased quantity of plasticizer is required in an aqueous-based system to obtain a coating finish that is comparable with a coating finish in an organic-based system. Assuming appropriate equipment is used, organic-based systems are limited because of toxicity or environmental issues. A novel approach for pharmaceutical applications would be a user-friendly organic solvent that is environmentally friendly and poses little health risk. An example is ethyl lactate of pharmaceutical grade (ELPG) (2).
Ethyl 2-hydroxypropionate (ethyl lactate) is used in many applications, including inks, flavorings, coatings, silicone oil and grease removal, and in the semiconductor industry (6). It is a replacement solvent for N-methylpyrrolidone, toluene, acetone, and xylene (7). As a "green" solubilizing agent, ethyl lactate has many advantages compared with other organic-based solubilizing agents. It may be readily purified because it is prepared from natural and renewable sources. It is completely biodegradable to carbon dioxide and water. It is easy and inexpensive to recycle (7). It is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an adjuvant solubilizing ingredient for flavors and pharmaceutical dyes. (8). It is a nonozone-depleting chemical, poses no hazard as an air pollutant, and is noncarcinogenic and noncorrosive (7). The authors propose that this ultrapure pharmaceutical grade of ethyl lactate is suitable in various pharmaceutical applications.