Managing emerging mutagenicity risks: Late stage mutagenic impurity control within the atovaquone second generation synthesis

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The mutagenic-impurity control strategy for a second generation manufacturing route to the non-mutagenic antipneumocystic agent atovaquone (2-((1R,4R)-4-(4-chlorophenyl)cyclohexyl)-3-hydroxynaphthalene-1,4-dione) 1 is described. Preliminary assessment highlighted multiple materials of concern which were largely discharged either through returning a negative bacterial mutagenicity assay or through confidence that the impurity would be purged during the downstream processing from when it was first introduced. Additional genotoxicity testing highlighted two materials of concern where initial assessment suggested that testing for these impurities at trace levels within the drug substance would be required. Following a thorough review of process purging detail, spiking and purging experimentation, and an understanding of the process parameters to which they were exposed an ICH M7 Option 4 approach could be justified for their control. The development of two 1H NMR spectroscopy methods for measurement of these impurities is also described as well as a proposed summary table for describing the underlying rationale for ICH M7 control rationales to regulators. This manuscript demonstrates that process purging of potential mutagenic impurities can be realised even when they are introduced in the later stages of a process and highlights the importance of scientific understanding rather than relying on a stage-counting approach.Graphical abstractHighlightsRetrospective ICH M7 assessment applied to second generation atovaquone process.Predicted versus measured impurity purge confirms conservatism of Teasdale approach.Robust science justifies ICH M7 Option 4 control for late introduced impurities.

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