In pharmaceutical formulations, phospholipids obtained from plant or animal sources and synthetic phospholipids are used. Natural phospholipids are purified from, e.g., soybeans or egg yolk using non-toxic solvent extraction and chromatographic procedures with low consumption of energy and minimum possible waste. Because of the use of validated purification procedures and sourcing of raw materials with consistent quality, the resulting products differing in phosphatidylcholine content possess an excellent batch to batch reproducibility with respect to phospholipid and fatty acid composition. The natural phospholipids are described in pharmacopeias and relevant regulatory guidance documentation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA). Synthetic phospholipids with specific polar head group, fatty acid composition can be manufactured using various synthesis routes. Synthetic phospholipids with the natural stereochemical configuration are preferably synthesized from glycerophosphocholine (GPC), which is obtained from natural phospholipids, using acylation and enzyme catalyzed reactions. Synthetic phospholipids play compared to natural phospholipid (including hydrogenated phospholipids), as derived from the number of drug products containing synthetic phospholipids, a minor role. Only in a few pharmaceutical products synthetic phospholipids are used. Natural phospholipids are used in oral, dermal, and parenteral products including liposomes. Natural phospholipids instead of synthetic phospholipids should be selected as phospholipid excipients for formulation development, whenever possible, because natural phospholipids are derived from renewable sources and produced with more ecologically friendly processes and are available in larger scale at relatively low costs compared to synthetic phospholipids.
Practical applications: For selection of phospholipid excipients for pharmaceutical formulations, natural phospholipids are preferred compared to synthetic phospholipids because they are available at large scale with reproducible quality at lower costs of goods. They are well accepted by regulatory authorities and are produced using less chemicals and solvents at higher yields. In order to avoid scale up problems during pharmaceutical development and production, natural phospholipid excipients instead of synthetic phospholipids should be selected whenever possible.