Container Closure Integrity Testing (CCIT) is essential for maintaining the sterility and stability of sterile injectable products. The optimal test method varies depending on the product. CCI testing is used to determine if there is a leak between the contents of a container and its external environment. This can be done by identifying whether communication can be established between the contents of the container and its surroundings.
Pharmaceutical containers such as vials, syringes, cartridges, and blister packs are frequently tested as part of a stability study to ensure that the closure of the container can maintain a sterile barrier. As part of a stability testing methodology, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests performing a container closure integrity test instead of a sterility test. Primary packaging methods based on vials for sterile pharmaceutical products must provide protection over the shelf life. This necessitates the demonstration of Container Closure Integrity (CCI), which should be done early in the pharma product development process. Helium leak testing is the most chosen CCI test method due to its high sensitivity when compared to other leak test methods.
What is Helium Leak Testing and How it Evaluates Vial Integrity?
Helium leak testing is one of the Container Closure Integrity (CCI) test methods for testing the leakage of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. This method uses helium and the change in concentration is detected when it exits owing to leakage. The applications of helium leak testing include vials, pre-filled syringes, foil pouches, or cold form blister cards. Each of these packaging types is meant to keep out harmful environmental pollutants such as dirt, microorganisms, or even gases while maintaining the sterility of the medicinal product enclosed. The package is filled with helium and subjected to vacuum in this method. A helium leak detector is used to quantify the amount of helium that escapes the package. The result is expressed as a leak rate.
Why Use Helium as a Tracer Gas?
Due to the following reasons, helium is considered an ideal choice for this type of testing:
- Helium is inert, and it is one of the smallest gas molecules.
- Small atomic size allows it to breach pathways reliably and easily.
- Helium is non-toxic, non-condensable, non-flammable.
- Safe to use as it will not interact with the components being tested.
- Helium is less expensive and readily available when compared to other tracer gases.
- The presence of helium in the atmosphere is not more than 5ppm.
As a highly sensitive quantitative test technique, helium leak testing evaluates Container Closure System (CCS) components for parenteral applications. It offers quantitative leak rate data that significantly exceeds the detection limitations of conventional approaches. The method has proven to analyze the impact of processing factors on container closure systems, such as parenteral vial capping applications, elastomeric closure selection, or changing sealing parameters.
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