Impurities found in diabetes drugs outside the U.S.: FDA

  • Posted on: 9 December 2019
  • By: Shalini.Sharma

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been investigating the presence of genotoxic impurities, called nitrosamines, in some types of drugs. Over the past year and a half, several drug products including angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and ranitidine, commonly known as Zantac, have been found to contain small amounts of nitrosamines such as N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). During this time, there has been an ongoing investigation into the presence of nitrosamines in other drug products. This effort is focused on ensuring the drugs used by Americans continue to meet strict quality standards.

The FDA is aware that some metformin diabetes medicines in other countries were reported to have low levels of NDMA. Based on the information we have available, the levels of NDMA seen outside the U.S. are within the range that is naturally occurring in some foods and in water. While we are aware that some regulatory agencies outside the U.S. may be recalling some metformin drugs, there are no metformin recalls affecting the U.S. market at this time.

Metformin is a prescription drug used to control high blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. Patients should continue taking metformin to keep their diabetes under control. It could be dangerous for patients with this serious condition to stop taking their metformin without first talking to their health care professional.

NDMA is a common contaminant found in water and foods including cured and grilled meats, dairy products and vegetables. Everyone is exposed to some level of NDMA. The FDA and the international scientific community do not expect it to cause harm when ingested at low levels. The acceptable daily intake limit for NDMA in the U.S. is 96 nanograms. Genotoxic substances such as NDMA may increase the risk of cancer if people are exposed to them above acceptable levels and over long periods of time, but a person taking a drug that contains NDMA at-or-below the acceptable daily intake limit every day for 70 years is not expected to have an increased risk of cancer.

The FDA will continue to investigate the source of these impurities, but it is important to note that there are multiple reasons why NDMA can be present in drugs. Previously, we found the source of NDMA can be related to the drug’s manufacturing process or its chemical structure or even the conditions in which they are stored or packaged. As food and drugs are processed in the body, nitrosamines, including NDMA, can be formed.

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