The importance of the cosolvent propylene glycol on the antimicrobial preservative efficacy of a pharmaceutical formulation by DOE-ruggedness testing

Pharm Dev Technol. 2006;11(3):275-84. doi: 10.1080/10837450600767342.


The aim of this study was to statistically evaluate the influence of the concentration of the co-solvent propylene glycol on the preservative efficacy of a complex pharmaceutical suspension-emulsion formulation containing methyl- and propylparaben. Preservative Efficacy Tests (PETs) were performed using the validated pharmacopoeial methodology with five test organisms over 1 month on lab-scale test formulations. These were independently prepared according to a Box-Behnken experimental design with a triplicate central point at 0.22% m/m methylparaben, 0.22% m/m propylparaben, and 2.75% m/m propylene glycol, and with an additional corner point of the Box-Behnken cube. We evaluated the preservative efficacies against the criteria of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and European Pharmacopoeias (PhEur) for formulations for oral use, as well as by the statistical comparison of the slopes obtained by linear regression of log (CFU/g) vs. time. With an initial bacterial challenge of 10(6) CFU/g for each of the three bacterial strains, no survivals were detected after 7 days. For the two fungal strains, box plots and analysis of variance showed significant, concentration-dependent, main effects: the three variables significantly influenced the kill-rate of C. albicans, while A. niger was predominantly influenced by the cosolvent propylene glycol, and only to a minor extent by methylparaben and not at all by propylparaben. These findings were confirmed by taking the pharmacopoeial criteria as the evaluation basis, where the dominant influence of propylene glycol concentration is apparent. It was concluded that the cosolvent propylene glycol is at least of equal preservative importance than both parabens.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspergillus niger / drug effects
  • Aspergillus niger / growth & development
  • Candida albicans / drug effects
  • Candida albicans / growth & development
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Emulsions / chemistry
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Parabens / chemistry
  • Parabens / pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / chemistry
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / pharmacology*
  • Propylene Glycol / chemistry
  • Propylene Glycol / pharmacology
  • Research Design*
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Solvents / pharmacology
  • Suspensions / chemistry
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Emulsions
  • Parabens
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Solvents
  • Suspensions
  • Propylene Glycol
  • methylparaben
  • propylparaben