Environmental Innovation: The Progress of Propellants in the Pharmaceutical Industry


In recent decades, sprays have revolutionized our daily lives, providing greater convenience across a wide range of products, from deodorants to insecticides, as well as hair sprays and spray paints. Behind this convenience lies an essential yet often overlooked component: propellants.

Propellants are the gases that propel the contents of an aerosol from the container to the outside. These gases can be of different types, from hydrocarbons to halogenated gases, and are selected based on the desired application and environmental and safety considerations. For example, aerosol propellants used in the beauty and personal care industry are often hydrocarbons like butane or propane, or dimethyl ether, while technical products may require more specialized propellants.

In addition to these rather quotidian applications, propellants also play a fundamental role in the pharmaceutical field. Specifically, they are essential in the administration of inhaled medications, such as metered-dose inhalers used in the treatment of asthma and other respiratory diseases. These propellants, known as “pharma grade,” must meet strict standards of purity and safety since they come into direct contact with the human body.

In recent years, the field of aerosol propellants has undergone rapid evolution in response to the need to find safer and more sustainable alternatives. Concerns about ozone depletion and climate change have driven the search for new materials that meet the requirements of the pharmaceutical industry without compromising the environment.

In this context, R152a has emerged as a promising option. This hydrofluorocarbon, which is in the process of FDA approval, has the potential to become a reference propellant for inhaled medications. Its ability to meet strict purity and safety criteria makes it ideal for use in pharmaceutical products, offering a sustainable, safe, and effective alternative to traditional propellants.

Another noteworthy alternative in development is HFO-1234ze, marketed by Honeywell under the name Solstice® Air. This compound, characterized by its low Global Warming Potential (GWP), is shaping up to be another potential benchmark for the pharmaceutical industry in the search for more environmentally friendly propellants.

In conclusion, the need for the evolution of aerosol propellants is driving innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, encouraging improvements in the sustainability of inhaled medications without compromising their efficacy and safety. With R152a and HFO-1234ze on the horizon, the future of inhaled medication administration looks promising and sustainable.

■ Communication Team

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