Quantification of active pharmaceutical ingredient and impurities in sildenafil citrate obtained from the Internet.
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BACKGROUND: The accessibility of prescription drugs produced outside of the United States, most notably sildenafil citrate (innovator product, Viagra), has been made much easier by the Internet. Of greatest concern to clinicians and policymakers is product quality and patient safety. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings to potential buyers that the safety of drugs purchased from the Internet cannot be guaranteed, and may present a health risk to consumers from substandard products. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine whether generic sildenafil citrate tablets from international markets obtained via the Internet are equivalent to the US innovator product regarding major aspects of pharmaceutical quality: potency, accuracy of labeling, and presence and level of impurities. This will help identify aspects of drug quality that may impact public health risks. METHODS: A total of 15 sildenafil citrate tablets were obtained for pharmaceutical analysis: 14 generic samples from international Internet pharmacy websites and the US innovator product. According to US Pharmacopeial guidelines, tablet samples were tested using high-performance liquid chromatography for potency of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and levels of impurities (impurities A, B, C, and D). Impurity levels were compared with International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) limits. RESULTS: Among the 15 samples, 4 samples possessed higher impurity B levels than the ICH qualification threshold, 8 samples possessed higher impurity C levels than the ICH qualification threshold, and 4 samples possessed more than 1% impurity quantity of maximum daily dose (MDD). For API, 6 of the samples failed to fall within the 5% assay limit. CONCLUSIONS: Quality assurance tests are often used to detect formulation defects of drug products during the manufacturing and/or storage process. Results suggest that manufacturing standards for sildenafil citrate generic drug products compared with the US innovator product are not equivalent with regards to potency and levels of impurities. These findings have implications for safety and effectiveness that should be addressed by clinicians to safeguard consumers who choose to purchase sildenafil citrate and foreign-manufactured drugs, in general, via the Internet.