OBJECTIVE Pancreatic enzyme products were available before the 1938 passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and have to date been marketed without required safety and efficacy testing. Despite a lack of demonstrated bioequivalence, they are often substituted for each other without physician or patient consent or monitoring. We investigated the in vitro variability of key performance parameters among a representative group of currently available pancreatic enzyme formulations.
MATERIALS AND METHODS Three “branded” preparations (Creon 20 Minimicrospheres, Pancrease MT 20, Ultrase MT 20) and 3 “generic” formulations (Pangestyme CN-20, Pancrelipase 20,000 URL, and Lipram CR 20) were evaluated in vitro for physical parameters of the capsules, actual vs. labeled enzyme activity, resistance of the enteric coating to simulated gastric acid, and kinetics of simulated duodenal lipase release. All products were labeled as providing 20,000 units of lipase activity per capsule.
RESULTS All products varied considerably in the percentage relationship between actual and labeled lipase activity. Actual lipase activity exceeded 165% of the label claim in 4 batches of the Pangestyme product and 1 batch of the Lipram product. All batches of the Creon, Lipram, Ultrase, and Pancrease products were found to have residual lipase activity above 80% of their baseline measurements after testing in simulated gastric acid; residual lipase activity varied significantly among batches of the Pangestyme product and was only 1% for the Pancrelipase product. The Creon and Lipram products demonstrated effective protection by the enteric coating at pH <6.0 and rapid release of enzymatic activity at pH ≥6.0. The Pangestyme and Pancrelipase products showed substantial activity of released enzymes already at pH 5.0. Release kinetics were inconsistent between batches for the Ultrase and Pancrease products.
CONCLUSION This study confirms the existence of “branded”-to-“generic,” product-to-product, and batch-to-batch variability among representative pancreatic enzyme formulations with pharmaceutically equivalent labels. The results confirm current cautions regarding pharmacy substitution of pancreatic enzyme products and support the announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration, made subsequent to this study, that as of April 2008 approved new drug applications will be required in order to ensure the quality, potency, and stability of these products.