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Crystallization and Transformation of AcetaminophenTrihydrate
Matthew L. Peterson,*
David McIlroy,
Paul Shaw,
J . Peter Mustonen,
Mark Oliveira,
and O
rn Almarsson
TransForm Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 29 Hartwell Avenue, Lexington, Massachusetts 02421 and Department of Materials Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 Received April 11, 2003; Revised Manuscript Received July 3, 2003 
Acetaminophen is both polymorphic and prone to the formation of a trihydrate. The recently discoveredtrihydrate is a lath-like crystalline form that is highly metastable with respect to conversion to the thermodynamicallystable form I polymorph. While the trihydrate is physically stable in ice-cold aqueous suspension (with up to 50%propylene glycol or glycerol), conversion of trihydrate takes place at temperatures above 5 °C via a solution-mediatedtransformation pathway to produce form I. On drying, the optically transparent trihydrate laths transform to anopaque, micronized form I. The metastable trihydrate is characterized as a maximally solvated form that appearsto defy Ostwald’s rule of stages and thus behaves fundamentally differently from the highly metastable polymorphform III.
Acetaminophen (4-acetamidophenol; paracetamol) isa well-studied pharmaceutical compound that is knownto exhibit polymorphism.
Three crystal forms of thepure substance are known; one of those is a metastablebilayer structure, form III, that was characterized by acombination of high-throughput crystallization experi-ments and refinements of calculated structures frompolymorph prediction.
The relative thermodynamicstability of the polymorphs falls in the order of I
III, and the interconversion of the forms follows thereverse order.
Binary phases of acetaminophen have been made inwhich hydrogen bonding with amine base is exploitedto generate chains of the 1:1 adducts, as well as a 2:1acetaminophen/4,4
-bipyridine cocrystal.
A hemisolvatewith 1,4-dioxane has also been reported.
Recently,crystalline monohydrate
and trihydrate
forms havebeen described. The procedure to prepare the trihydratematerial involved quench-cooling an aqueous solutionand capturing the resulting crystals in oil, enabling thesingle-crystal structures to be determined. Herein wereport on the physical stability of the acetaminophentrihydrate and characterize form conversion in aqueoussuspensions and on drying of isolated lath crystals.
Experimental Section
Acetaminophen (lot 100K0197) was from Sigma-Aldrich. All reagents were used as received. Water was purifiedusing a Fluid Solutions RODI system and tested to have 18.3M
resistivity. Ice was prepared using a Scotsman icemakerand crushed to desired size.
Powder X-ray diffraction experimentswere carried out using a Rigaku Rapid-DMAX microdiffrac-tometer. Raman spectra were recorded using a ThermoNicoletAlmega Dispersive Raman spectrometer equipped with a 785nm laser. Differential scanning calorimetric studies were runusing a TA Instruments DSC Q1000. Optical microscopy wasperformed using a Zeiss Axioplan polarized light microscopeequipped with a digital camera.
All crystallization experiments were carriedout in 20 mL glass vials fitted with Teflon-sealed metal crimpcaps. The vials were arrayed in aluminum blocks that wereplaced on temperature-controlled aluminum plates. Solutionsof acetaminophen in water (20
40 mg/mL) were prepared byheating mixtures to 70 °C for about 30 min.
Dissolution wasmonitored visually. After all of the solid acetaminophen haddissolved, the warm solutions (
10 mL) were filtered into 20mL glass vials that had been incubated at 60 °C, through 0.2
m PVDV syringe filters using 10 mL plastic disposablesyringe bodies. The glass vials were immediately sealed andtransferred to aluminum blocks that had been preheated to60 °C. After all of the samples had been prepared and arrayedin aluminum blocks, the blocks were cooled to 0 °C over 12 hand then maintained at 0 °C until analyzed. In severalsamples, laths were observed and subsequently characterizedas acetaminophen trihydrate. For seeding experiments, 30
Lof a suspension of acetaminophen trihydrate crystals, preparedby cooling a 30 mg/mL aqueous solution, was added to cooledsolutions followed by gentle manual agitation.The concentration of acetaminophen in solution in samplescontaining trihydrate and form I were measured by HPLCusing a UV detector (
244 nm). Samples used for HPLCanalysis were prepared by carefully removing 500
L ofsolution from above the crystals and diluting immediately to250 mL with water in a volumetric flask. Samples wereanalyzed using a Thermo Hypersil-Keystone Betabasic C18column on a Waters Alliance System HPLC and 82:15:3(v/v/v) water/methanol/acetic acid as the mobile phase.
Resultsand DiscussionCrystallization of the Trihydrate by Cooling.
Out of 40 crystallization attempts, five samples spon-taneously produced the trihydrate
Other samples pro-duced the monoclinic form I crystals from supersatu-rated solution within a week, but some samples did notspontaneously nucleate after more than one week.Samples that contained a nominal concentration ofgreater than 35 mg/mL acetaminophen generated formI acetaminophen, based on PXRD. Rapid cooling in a
20 °C freezer caused nucleation and growth of form I
* Corresponding author. E-mail: mpeterson@transformpharma.com.
TransForm Pharmaceuticals.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
10.1021/cg0340603 CCC: $25.00 © xxxx American Chemical SocietyPAGE EST: 4.8Published on Web 00/00/0000
crystals. Furthermore, highly supersaturated solutions(40 mg/mL and above) generate only form I at 0 °C, butreadily grow the trihydrate if seeded with trihydratelaths.
CrystallizationoftheTrihydratebySeedingoSaturated Aqueous Solutions.
Form I acetami-nophen was dissolved in water by warming to 60
65°C. Upon rapid cooling of the sample to 0 °C andsubsequent seeding with
L of a suspension oftrihydrate (
3 mg assuming a homogeneous suspensionof 30 mg/mL), the trihydrate quickly crystallized fromthe aqueous solution. Approximately 8 g of trihydratewere prepared in this manner. The formation of thetrihydrate from seeded solutions was rapid: a thicksuspension of trihydrate formed within 3 min. As littleas 25
L of suspension (or about 0.75 mg of trihydrateseed) sufficed to cause the entire vial to fill withtrihydrate crystals. The crystals produced by seedingwere identical by PXRD
(Figure 1) and by Raman tothe crystals produced by McGregor’s method.
Thesuspension slowly settled to the bottom of the vial over24 h, but the laths could be gently resuspended byswirling without incurring transformation to form I. Asanticipated, suspensions at 0 °C containing form Icrystals did not yield the trihydrate upon addition ofseed crystal. However, even when seeded with form Icrystals, suspensions in equilibrium with the trihydratedid not transform for several weeks in solution at 0 °C.When warmed above 5 °C, these solutions convertedrapidly to large form I prisms. Accordingly, the trihy-drate is stable in suspension below 5 °C. Solutiongeneration of the trihydrate form requires a narrow window of temperature (ca.
2 to 5 °C). This observationmay explain why the trihydrate has eluded researchersfor over a century.To determine if form II was an intermediate in thetransformation of the trihydrate to form I, samples ofthe trihydrate were subjected to conditions thoughtlikely to bias the transformation toward form II. Ali-quots containing the trihydrate were quenched intoluene, or filtered under cold toluene after cooling thefiltration funnel in ice. Toluene was chosen because ofthe apparent ability of this solvent to increase thelikelihood of forming form II from evaporative andcooling recrystallizations.
In no case was form IIobserved. Instead, mixtures of the trihydrate and formI were observed by PXRD without any indication of formII (Figure 1, panel I
T). This does not exclude the
Powder X-ray diffractograms for form I (I), form II (II), the trihydrate (T), and a mixture of form I and the trihydrate(I
Crystal Growth & Design 
Peterson et al.
possibility of form II existing as a fleeting intermediate,but it does bear upon the difficulty to be found inattempts to generate form II using the trihydrate as anintermediate.
It is wellknown that different crystalline forms of a drug canhave dramatically different pharmaceutical properties,and hence there is significant regulatory scrutiny ofphysical form issues.
Analysis of the potential forma-tion of acetaminophen trihydrate in the presence of theexcipients found in Children’s Tylenol was studied.Aqueous solutions of acetaminophen (30 mg/mL) con-taining propylene glycol or glycerol were prepared. Thetwo alcohols are inactive ingredients found in Children’sTylenol. The solutions were cooled and seeded with 100
L of trihydrate suspension (nominal concentration of30 mg/mL drug) to determine if these solutions wouldform the trihydrate. Trihydrate crystals were obtainedfrom samples containing at least 50%water by volume.Pure water solutions were most stable toward trihydrateconversion to form I. As the amount of water decreased,the stability decreased and the material became highlysusceptible to conversion into form I. Solutions contain-ing less than 50%water by volume only produced formI. As expected, the water activity required to producethe trihydrate is significant. For reference, pediatricsuspensions of Tylenol contain about 25%w/v glycerol,a propylene glycol component and about 160 mg/mLacetaminophen.
Hence, the relevance of the trihydrateto commercial suspension formulations appears to beminimal.
Flash-frozensolutions of 30 mg/mL acetaminophen in water weregenerated by immersion of vials containing 10 mL ofsolution in liquid nitrogen. The frozen solutions werethen allowed to warm slowly to 0
5 °C and then allowedto melt. Tiny lath crystals of about micron length,characteristic of the trihydrate, were observed. Onfurther warming to room temperature, the microcrystalsslurry converted to form I. When solid was scraped fromthe flash-frozen solution into a 30 mg/mL acetami-nophen solution at 0 °C, the vial filled with small lath-like crystals which were identified by Raman as trihy-drate. The laths prepared by scraping the frozen solutionqualitatively appeared larger and more physically stablethan those that came directly from the liquid nitrogen-quenched solution. In our hands, this method of makingthe trihydrate was more robust than slow cooling.
CrystallizationsbySeedingwith Ice.
Inspectionof the single-crystal structure of acetaminophen trihy-drate
does not indicate any ice-like arrangements ofthe waters of hydration within the structure.
Since thetrihydrate can crystallize by spontaneous nucleation at0 °C and also by freezing saturated acetaminophensolutions (30 mg/mL) in water, the effect of seeding withice was studied. Solutions of acetaminophen in water(30 mg/mL) were cooled from 60 to 0 °C over 12 h.
Slurry conversion of acetaminophen trihydrate (laths) at 22 °C (A) 0 s, (B) 300 s, (C) 600 s, and (D) 900 s.
Crystallization of Acetaminophen Trihydrate
Crystal Growth & Design 

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