Identification of foreign microparticles in drug products is one of the first steps in evaluating the nature of particle contamination and its consequences for product quality. To characterize various foreign particles, we use spectral database search methods as well as a number of microscopic and microspectroscopic techniques. Here, we report a case study involving the identification and root-cause investigation of a microparticle consisting of four compounds. Foreign microparticles consisting of mixtures pose unique challenges for identification as their spectra are difficult to interpret and general database searches usually return unsatisfactory results. Moreover, sample separation through purification and other manipulations is time consuming and often difficult for these microparticles due to their small sizes and the limited quantities of the components. Here we demonstrate an applicable methodology that combines multiple microscopic and microspectroscopic techniques to identify a heterogeneous microparticle without the need for sample purification or chemical separation. This methodology primarily combines Raman, infrared, and energy dispersive X-ray microspectroscopic techniques to obtain complementary spectral information for the identification of heterogeneous particles. With this methodology, the mixed microparticle investigated in this study was determined to consist of polyisobutylene, hydrated magnesium silicate, titanium dioxide, and silica, likely originating from the vial stopper material.
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