Origination – An active ingredient refers to the component of a pharmaceutical drug that is biologically active.
An active ingredient refers to the component of a pharmaceutical drug that is biologically active. It is often referred to as “Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API)” or “bulk active”. Many drugs may contain more than one API. Traditionally, the API were called “pharmacon” or “pharmakon” (derived from the Greek word “pharmacos”), which had the original meaning of “magic substance/drug”.
“Active constituent” is the term that is often used to refer to the active substance in a plant as the word “ingredient” marks the presence of a human agency while the word “natural products” means that the substances weren’t added by humans but occurred naturally.
A Medication’s Components
The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient of a medicinal drug is the substance responsible for causing the effects of the drug itself.
Every drug has mainly two components, one is the API and the other, is the excipient. The API is responsible for causing the effects of the drug while the excipient is a liquid, such as mineral oil, that performs the task of delivering the drug to the system.
For example, the medication for headache, includes acetaminophen as active ingredient while the excipient in this case is the liquid in the drug.
Where are APIs made?
Since the beginning, pharmaceutical companies had been manufacturing APIs in their home country but since the past few years, they have started outsourcing the manufacturing process, to cut costs.
The largest of the pharmaceutical companies are located in Asia, specially in China and India, even though there are many in the U.S. and Europe too. Dr. Reddy is one of the companies which have outsourced their manufacturing work to cut costs on infrastructure, employees and expensive equipment.
Notably, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals used to run multiple manufacturing units in the United States earlier. Now, they only have 15% of them left in the U.S. and are trying hard to outsource all of their manufacturing overseas.
Most Popular Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
- Acetaminophen (paracetamol)
The therapeutic purposes of the medicine: Used to treat mild flu, fever, and doubles as a pain killer for mild pain.
Contradictions: None, unless there’s an allergy to paracetamol itself.
Pregnancy: No complications.
Breastfeeding: No complications.
Therapeutic purposes of the medicine: It is used to treat sto
mach ulcers and can also prevent stomach ulcers by reducing the acid reflux that damages the coating of the body.
- Allergy to the drug.
- The doctor should be consulted, and caution should be maintained when being consumed by a patient with liver or kidney impairment.
Pregnancy: The doctor should be consulted before the drug is consumed.
Breastfeeding: The pill is released with breast milk which can be harmful for the child.
Therapeutic purposes of the medicine: Primarily used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Used as an add-on treatment in irritability in the case of autism, tic disorders and depressive disorders.
- Not recommended to be used for patients of psychosis caused by dementia.
- Neuropletic malignant syndrome, a movement disorder.
- Not be to be used by patients who suffer from high blood pressure.
- Not to be used by patients with diabetes.
- Amisulpride (Solian)
Therapeutic purposes of the medicine: Normally used to treat schizophrenia, is an antipsychotic medication.
- Extrapyramidal side effects (very common): including akathisia, parkinsonism, tremor, dystonia and others.
- Hyperactivity, Nausea, Anxiety, Vomiting, Headache, Insomnia, Hypersalivation (common)
- Benazepril (Novartis)
Therapeutic purposes of the medicine: In the treatment of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, hypertension and also in preventing the retinal and renal (kidney-related) complications of diabetes.
- Most common: Chronic cough (in about 20% of the treated patients) or headache, often developed after months of use.
- Angioedema, elevation of potassium levels and anaphylaxis.
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin/Zyban)
Therapeutic purposes of the medicine: Primarily used as an aid in smoke cessation, and as an antidepressant.
- Epileptic seizures, because of which the drug was taken off the shelves between 1986 to 1989. The risk of these seizures is mainly dependent on the dosage of the drug.
Regulations On APIs
Due to the fact that the active pharmaceutical ingredient is the main component of the pill, that causes the effects, poor manufacturing or compromise on the quality of the API can lead to seriously health problems, ailments, and even, death.
Since the pharmaceutical companies have started outsourcing their work, the concern has increased. The overseas countries which they are shipped to, have formed regulatory standards, regulations and oversight, to prevent any mistakes. Even the Food and Drug Administration body of the United States, inspect the APIs produced overseas before they hit the shelves.
The fact that manufacturing takes place overseas now, pharmaceutical companies are unable to go through every process of the manufacturing which has increased concerns. Even though the outsourcing, mainly to Asia, has helped companies cut costs on many things such as employees and equipment, and using that money to focus on Research & Development to find cures for more ailments, a compromise on the APIs can lead to severe problems.
To prevent these problems which may, in the worst case scenario, turn into an outbreak, the FDA of the United States organizes intense screenings to ensure, and maintain quality, and prevent any defects.
The violation of these standards can lead to serious problems for the companies, and in most of the cases, cause them severe loss, pushing them marginally back on their track of growth and development.
The Moral Question
The question is an ethical and moral one rather than one that’s about the strictness of the regulations.
The only way that APIs can be made safer for the consumers, is possible if the companies start keeping an oversight on the manufacturing process and conduct screening that can assure safety of the consumers.