Pharmaceuticals and Hygroscopicity – Drug Therapy Example

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"Pharmaceuticals and Hygroscopicity" is a perfect example of a paper on drug therapy. Man has always been bothered by ailments and diseases since time immemorial. This had led him to search for treatments that can cure him and hopefully prevent the recurrence of an ailment and maintain his good health and overall well-being in the long run. Western medicine is also largely based on the dominant use of drugs which are chemical-based concoctions to cure him of his diseases. In this connection, the pharmaceutical industry became a mainstay of Western medicine (as opposed to traditional or complementary and alternative medicine or CAM) due to an over-reliance on the formulation of drugs to treat disease and cure an ailment.

This has far-reaching implications because drugs that are essentially chemical compounds tend to be unstable and degrade over a certain period of time, which destroys their effectiveness and the drugs eventually lose their potency. This short paper discusses an important characteristic of most drugs which is hygroscopicity and its relevant role in modern medicine. Discussion Hygroscopicity in pharmaceutics is defined as the ability or characteristic feature of any drug formulation to be able to stay chemically stable over time with its ability to absorb, store and release moisture from and into the atmosphere.

This important and interesting feature always needs to be considered whenever a new drug is synthesized, processed, and manufactured so that it can be stored for longer periods without any deterioration or degradation of its potency and is made available at the right moment whenever it is needed by the doctor or the patient. It is an important element in drug formulation for pharmaceutical companies as it allows the drug to be stored by extending its shelf life without changes to its chemical composition.

This ability to either absorb or release atmospheric moisture has importance in pharmaceutics as it determines to a large extent what type of form (whether it is solid, liquid, or another state) the drug is to be made. The right kind of packaging materials to be used that will extend shelf life and as a buffer against hygroscopicity (Zhang et al. , 2012:27) will help determine drug cost. Pharmaceutics is the science of turning any new chemical entity (NCE) into its useful forms through the correct formulation of the NCE into its appropriate dosage levels that is safe and effective.

In this connection, hygroscopicity has an important bearing in pharmaceutics due to its potential effects on the potency of any new drug formula which could be adversely affected by the actions of moisture whether unintended or not. This interaction between drug and water in the form of water vapor or atmospheric moisture can alter the original formulation and a drug could possibly lose its potency through either dilution, chemical reaction, or degradation in its process of being manufactured, transported, and stored while awaiting final use or sale. Most drugs today are in solid form as a tablet, which is convenient to carry and store.

This is the preferred form because the dosage is easier to control compared to a liquid medication. Drugs in tablet form can be protected from hygroscopicity by a thick coating of inert substances but it does not alter the chemical molecules of the drug itself.

However, it must be remembered that there is no single universally accepted definition for hygroscopicity (Hilfiker, 2006:236). It is somewhat arbitrary as hygroscopicity varies due to factors like relative humidity (RH) and kinetics which determines the rate of water uptake while thermodynamics determines the rate of any energy generated emanating from a chemical reaction with the drug's components.   Conclusion An obvious measure to ensure the correct dosage is still present in any drug is to eliminate or minimize hygroscopicity. With regards to liquid formulations such as suspensions, the use of appropriate packaging material like glass amber bottles can help to protect the contents of the bottle from the effects of sunlight (or a rise in the ambient room temperature) which may trigger a chemical reaction.

A good alternative is to have the drug mixture in powdered form; this is found in capsules, effervescent salts, or dusting powders. One advantage is economics because this is easy and cheap to manufacture (Kasture & Paradkar, 2008:81).


Hilfiker, R. (2006) Polymorphism in the Pharmaceutical Industry. Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH.

Kasture, P. V. & Paradkar, A. R. (2008) Practical Pharmaceutics. New Delhi, India: Nirali Prakashan.

Zhang, H., Yoshino, H. & Hasegawa, K. (2012) “Assessing the Moisture Buffering Performance of Hygroscopic Materials by Using Experimental Method,” Building and Environment, 48, January, pp. 27-34.

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