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FDA Chemists Train at Duquesne

A group of nearly 30 chemists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is at Duquesne University this week for a workshop on the latest pharmaceutical technology to check drugs' quality.

Duquesne Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor Carl Anderson said the seminar is meant to update the FDA reviewers on recent advances in the field, both technological and philosophical.

Anderson said a new philosophy called "Quality By Design" stresses that companies constantly check the quality of drugs as they're being produced, rather than one review at the end of production. Anderson said "big pharma" companies are doing so with a new device called a "near-infrared spectrometer," which is essentially a sort of radar that targets a tablet's active ingredient, making sure there's enough and that it's evenly dispersed.

He said the students, mainly Ph.D.-level scientists, are aware of the new technologies, but they need more in-depth training. "Here, they actually have a chance to use the equipment," said Anderson. "They have the chance to turn the knobs, to press the buttons, to actually put their hands in the product and play, in a literal sense, with the very equipment that's being used to manufacture these drug products."

The Duquesne professor said the new knowledge will allow the chemists to better understand reports from drug companies, which are using machines like the near-infrared spectrometer.

This week's seminar is the fourth held by Duquesne since 2005. Anderson said Duquesne's pharmacy school is one of about ten in the world that has the specific tablet technology necessary to host such a workshop.