Nitrosamine Impurities in Pharmaceutical Products

What is Nitrosamine Impurities?

  • Nitrosamine impurities are a class of chemical compounds that can be found as unintended contaminants in various products, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and certain foods.
  • Nitrosamines are a class of chemical compounds that contain a nitroso group (-NO) bonded to an amine group (-NH2). They are characterized by the presence of the nitroso functional group, which consists of a nitrogen atom bonded to an oxygen atom.
  • Nitrosamines can be formed through various chemical reactions, including the reaction between nitrite compounds and secondary amines or amides in the presence of certain conditions, such as acidic or high-temperature environments.
  • Many nitrosamines are considered to be potentially hazardous and are classified as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or mutagenic (capable of causing genetic mutations). They have been associated with various types of cancers in both animals and humans.
  • Nitrosamines can enter the body through various routes, including ingestion, inhalation, and dermal exposure.
  • In the context of the pharmaceutical industry, nitrosamines have gained significant attention due to their presence as impurities in certain drug products.
  • Nitrosamine impurities can be formed during the synthesis, manufacturing, or storage of pharmaceuticals. Contamination of drug products with nitrosamines has raised concerns regarding patient safety and regulatory compliance.
  • Efforts are being made by regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical companies to minimize the presence of nitrosamine impurities in drug products.
  • Stringent guidelines and regulations have been established to set limits on acceptable levels of nitrosamines in pharmaceuticals and to ensure appropriate testing and risk assessment.
  • Regular monitoring, testing, and implementation of appropriate control measures are essential to mitigate the risk associated with nitrosamine contamination in pharmaceutical products.
  • Nitrosamines can be found in a variety of different sources, including:
    • Food: Nitrosamines can be found in processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, as well as in cured meats, such as ham and salami. They can also be found in some vegetables, such as spinach and celery.
    • Water: Nitrosamines can be found in drinking water, especially in areas where there is a lot of agricultural runoff.
    • Tobacco smoke: Nitrosamines are a major component of tobacco smoke, and are responsible for much of the cancer risk associated with smoking.
    • Medications: Nitrosamines have been found in a number of different medications, including blood pressure medications, heartburn medications, and diabetes medications.
  • The risk of developing cancer from exposure to nitrosamines depends on a number of factors, including the level of exposure, the length of exposure, and the individual’s overall health. People who are exposed to high levels of nitrosamines over a long period of time are at the greatest risk of developing cancer.

Types of Nitrosamine Impurities:

Here are some specific nitrosamine impurities that have been identified:

  • 1. N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  • 2. N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA)
  • 3. N-Nitrosomethylaminobutyric acid (NMBA)
  • 4. N-Nitrosopyrrolidine (NPYR)
  • 5. N-Nitrosodiisopropylamine (NDIPA)
  • 6. N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid (NMBA)
  • 7. N-Nitrosomorpholine (NMOR)
  • 8. N-Nitrosopiperidine (NPIP)
  • 9. N-Nitrosopyrrolidone (NPYR)
  • 10. N-Nitrosodi-n-propylamine (NDPA)
Nitrosamine Impurities


Here are some links to the FDA’s guidance documents on nitrosamines:

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