The global pharmaceutical industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few decades. However, complex nature of the industry coupled with frequent breakthroughs has made it a favorite subject of scrutiny. Adding to that, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated pharmaceutical industry challenges. Along with COVID-19 vaccine, the industry has seen a spike in the production of cell and gene therapy treatments, biologics, and other large-molecule products that demand unique storage conditions to maintain sterility of the drug throughout its shelf life or until it is administered.
Since most high-risk pharmaceutical products are filled and sealed in combination devices, it’s critical for manufacturers to ensure that the components function well together. Hence, design and distribution considerations are critical to the early design of both the drug and the container. Manufacturing inconsistencies and tolerance differences in packages containing multiple components are primary contributors to distribution issues. Often, such inconsistencies result in container closure failure, causing serious implications down the supply chain. For instance, glass vials and pre-filled syringes may not seal properly at critical fill-finish closure points. Such a failure can cause oxygen or other environmental contaminants to enter the product and compromise the efficacy of the drug in the barrel. At this point, it is critical to use the most precise leak testing method possible.
In such situations, helium leak detection is the most effective sensitive test for ensuring container closure integrity. By utilizing helium leak detection early in development, companies can make considerable improvements in the quality of their drug delivery system. This not only saves cost and time, but will also raise standards of safety.
Understanding helium leak detection technology
Helium is used as a tracer gas because it is non-toxic, non-flammable, non-condensable and its presence in the atmosphere is not more than 5ppm.Being the second smallest molecule on the periodic table, helium can expose virtually any opening. Further, helium does not react with other materials, so it is relatively safe to use. Under this method, a helium leak detector otherwise known as Mass Spectrometer Leak Detector (MSLD) is used to identify and calculate size of the leak. The test part is first connected to a leak detector and then the tracer gas, helium is introduced. In the presence of a leak, helium escapes from the test parts and this partial pressure is measured and results are displayed on the meter.
Applications of Helium Leak testing
- Ensuring Container Closure Integrity
- Selecting closure formulation and configuration
- Seal integrity monitoring during stability studies
- Extremely valuable in early stage pharmaceutical product package system development
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