With decades of combined chemical analysis and regulatory expertise, we deliver industry-leading, highly accurate element-specific protocols, advanced analytical method development, and validation in accordance with USP <232>/<233> and ICH Q3D guidelines for elemental impurities testing in drug products, down to necessary trace level limits of detection.

At almost any stage of drug development and manufacturing, impurities, contaminants, and residuals can be introduced into pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products. The presence of elemental impurities in raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), drug product, and packaging materials can cause significant disruption to even the most robust path-to-market, as drug products will not comply with necessary regulations, including those set by The International Council for Harmonization (ICH Q3D) and The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP <232> and <233>). 

Effective January 1, 2018, manufacturers of small and large molecule drugs are required to meet the specifications outlined in USP <232> and <233> elemental impurities testing guidance, which has been globally harmonized with ICH Q3D guidelines. The USP and ICH elemental impurities testing guidance promote a risk-based approach for the evaluation and control of elemental impurities in drug products, or permitted daily exposures (PDE) for individual elements, to ensure manufacturing processes are free from toxic metals. All potential sources of elemental impurities should be considered, including those intentionally added during synthesis (e.g., catalysts), those potentially present in materials used to prepare drug product, and any elements that may be introduced from manufacturing equipment or container closure systems.

Elemental impurities testing capabilities

Element’s teams of dedicated and experienced scientists have a proven track record of developing and validating customized, specific elemental impurities methods, protocols, and study designs for challenging APIs and complex sample matrices with accurate trace level detection, including those with poor solubility. Our deep expertise in USP heavy metals testing and elemental impurities testing of biologics and pharmaceuticals, along with a variety of advanced techniques, including ICP-MS coupled with individualized sample preparation methods and the use of three collision gases, allow for low-level detection of elements that are typically obscured by polyatomic interferences (e.g., sulfur and silicon. Generally, detection limits are sub parts per billion (ppb) for elements such as calcium, sodium, potassium, and silicon, and sub parts per trillion (ppt) detection limits can be achieved for select elements and applications. Furthermore, with the use of advanced sample preparation techniques, our scientists can analyze challenging sample matrices, such as plastics, lubricants, and pharmaceuticals, with the use of our microwave digestion system. 

Our comprehensive suite of quality control-focused solutions support the control of elemental impurities in product and production processes, including batch-to-batch testing, raw material testing, method optimization and refinement, and production process refinement to prevent elemental impurities challenges in the future.

Expert regulatory support for elemental impurities risk assessment programs

Maximize the effectiveness of your elemental impurities risk assessment with the support of our consultative team. As your collaborative, strategic contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) partner throughout the entire drug development lifecycle, our knowledgeable team can provide recommendations and alternative options that meet the standards set forth in USP <232>/<233> and ICH Q3D regulatory guidance for the control of elemental impurities in drug products if finished product ingredients do not meet standards for elemental impurities control.

Elemental impurities testing services

Elemental impurities sample preparation techniques

  • Closed-vessel microwave digestion
  • Open-vessel microwave digestion
  • Wet chemical digestion
  • Acid digestion
  • Base digestion
  • Solvent extraction
  • Reflux extraction

The Element advantage

Ensure the control of elemental impurities in small and large molecule drug products with Element’s deep regulatory knowledge, consultative approach, well-equipped laboratory, and proven success in achieving optimal methods for complex and challenging samples. Our end-to-end solutions include regulatory-driven elemental impurities risk assessment support, elemental impurities USP <232>/<233> and FDA ICH Q3D testing programs, screening, batch-to-batch testing, raw material testing, method development, validation, and optimization. We offer a customized approach to method development, using analytical techniques that provide the most accurate results down to trace levels.

To learn about our customized approach to controlling elemental impurities in pharmaceuticals and biologics, or to speak with one of our experts, contact us today.

Recommended target elements per ICH Q3D, USP <232>, EMEA, BPOG, and other industry expectations

  • Lithium (Li)
  • Aluminum (Al)
  • Silicon (Si)
  • Vanadium (V)
  • Chromium (Cr)
  • Manganese (Mn)
  • Iron (Fe)
  • Cobalt (Co)
  • Nickel (Ni)
  • Copper (Cu)
  • Zinc (Zn)
  • Arsenic (As)
  • Molybdenum (Mo)
  • Cadmium (Cd)
  • Tin (Sn)
  • Antimony (Sb)
  • Barium (Ba)
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Lead (Pb)

Additional recommended target elements if known to be present or potential for introduction per ICH Q3D, USP <232> and BPOG

  • Selenium (Se)
  • Ruthenium (Ru)
  • Rhodium (Rh)
  • Palladium (Pd)
  • Silver (Ag)
  • Tungsten (W)
  • Osmium (Os)
  • Iridium (Ir)
  • Platinum (Pt)
  • Gold (Au)
  • Thallium (Tl)

Other elements available as target analytes

  • Beryllium (Be) 
  • Boron (B) 
  • Sodium (Na) 
  • Magnesium (Mg) 
  • Phosphorus (P) 
  • Sulfur (S) 
  • Chlorine (Cl) 
  • Potassium (K) 
  • Calcium (Ca) 
  • Titanium (Ti) 
  • Germanium (Ge) 
  • Bromine (Br) 
  • Strontium (Sr) 
  • Zirconium (Zr) 
  • Iodine (I) 
  • Bismuth (Bi) 
  • Thorium (Th) 
  • Uranium (U) 

Our team of over 6,000 Engaged Experts in North America, Europe, The Middle East, Australia, Asia and Africa are ready to help you.