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Predicting the environmental emissions arising from conventional and nanotechnology-related pharmaceutical drug products

: Jung, Fabian; Thurn, Manuela; Krollik, Katharina; Gao, Ge Fiona; Hering, Indra; Eilebrecht, Elke; Emara, Yasmine; Weiler, Marc; Günday-Türeli, Nazende; Türeli, Emre; Parnham, Michael J.; Wacker, Matthias G.


Environmental research 192 (2021), Art. 110219, 12 S.
ISSN: 0013-9351
Fraunhofer IME ()
environmental exposure; modeling; Fenofibrate; Nanomaterial; life cycle assessment; pharmaceuticals

Today, environmental pollution with pharmaceutical drugs and their metabolites poses a major threat to the aquatic ecosystems. Active substances such as fenofibrate, are processed to pharmaceutical drug formulations before they are degraded by the human body and released into the wastewater. Compared to the conventional product Lipidil® 200, the pharmaceutical product Lipidil 145 One® and Ecocaps take advantage of nanotechnology to improve uptake and bioavailability of the drug in humans. In the present approach, a combination of in vitro drug release studies and physiologically-based biopharmaceutics modeling was applied to calculate the emission of three formulations of fenofibrate (Lipidil® 200, Lipidil 145 One®, Ecocaps) into the environment. Special attention was paid to the metabolized and non-metabolized fractions and their individual toxicity, as well as to the emission of nanomaterials. The fish embryo toxicity test revealed a lower aquatic toxicity for the metabolite fenofibric acid and therefore an improved toxicity profile. When using the microparticle formulation Lipidil® 200, an amount of 126 mg of non-metabolized fenofibrate was emitted to the environment. Less than 0.05% of the particles were in the lower nanosize range. For the nanotechnology-related product Lipidil 145 One®, the total drug emission was reduced by 27.5% with a nanomaterial fraction of approximately 0.5%. In comparison, the formulation prototype Ecocaps reduced the emission of fenofibrate by 42.5% without any nanomaterials entering the environment. In a streamlined life cycle assessment, the lowered dose in combination with a lowered drug-to-metabolite ratio observed for Ecocaps led to a reduction of the full life cycle impacts of fenofibrate with a reduction of 18% reduction in the global warming potential, 61% in ecotoxicity, and 15% in human toxicity. The integrated environmental assessment framework highlights the outstanding potential of advanced modeling technologies to determine environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals during early drug development using preclinical in vitro data.