Skip to content

Polyethylene Glycol

    Synonyms: Carbowax; Carbowax Sentry; Lipoxol; Lutrol E; macrogola; PEG; Pluriol E; polyoxyethylene glycol.

    Description: The USP32–NF27 describes polyethylene glycol as being an addition polymer of ethylene oxide and water. Polyethylene glycol grades 200–600 are liquids; grades 1000 and above are solids at ambient temperatures. Liquid grades (PEG 200–600) occur as clear, colorless or slightly yellow-colored, viscous liquids. They have a slight but characteristic odor and a bitter, slightly burning taste. PEG 600 can occur as a solid at ambient temperatures.

    Chemical Name: a-Hydro-o-hydroxypoly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl)

    Ointment base; plasticizer; solvent; suppository base; tablet and capsule lubricant.

    • Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are widely used in a variety of pharmaceutical formulations, including parenteral, topical, ophthalmic, oral, and rectal preparations.

    • Polyethylene glycol has been used experimentally in biodegradable polymeric matrices used in controlled-release systems.

    • Polyethylene glycols are stable, hydrophilic substances that are essentially nonirritant to the skin.

    • They do not readily penetrate the skin, although the polyethylene glycols are water-soluble and are easily removed from the skin by washing, making them useful as ointment bases.

    • Solid grades are generally employed in topical ointments, with the consistency of the base being adjusted by the addition of liquid grades of polyethylene glycol.

    • Mixtures of polyethylene glycols can be used as suppository bases, for which they have many advantages over fats. For example, the melting point of the suppository can be made higher to withstand exposure to warmer climates; release of the drug is not dependent upon melting point; the physical stability on storage is better; and suppositories are readily miscible with rectal fluids.

    • Polyethylene glycols have the following disadvantages: they are chemically more reactive than fats; greater care is needed in processing to avoid inelegant contraction holes in the suppositories; the rate of release of water-soluble medications decreases with the increasing molecular weight of the polyethylene glycol; and polyethylene glycols tend to be more irritating to mucous membranes than fats.

    • Aqueous polyethylene glycol solutions can be used either as suspending agents or to adjust the viscosity and consistency of other suspending vehicles.

    • When used in conjunction with other emulsifiers, polyethylene glycols can act as emulsion stabilizers.

    • Liquid polyethylene glycols are used as water-miscible solvents for the contents of soft gelatin capsules.

    • However, they may cause hardening of the capsule shell by preferential absorption of moisture from gelatin in the shell.

    • In concentrations up to approximately 30% v/v, PEG 300 and PEG 400 have been used as the vehicle for parenteral dosage forms.

    The chemical reactivity of polyethylene glycols is mainly confined to the two terminal hydroxyl groups, which can be either esterified or etherified. However, all grades can exhibit some oxidizing activity owing to the presence of peroxide impurities and secondary products formed by autoxidation.

    Polyethylene glycols are widely used in a variety of pharmaceutical formulations. Generally, they are regarded as nontoxic and nonirritant materials. Adverse reactions to polyethylene glycols have been reported, the greatest toxicity being with glycols of low molecular weight. However, the toxicity of glycols is relatively low.

    Observe normal precautions appropriate to the circumstances and quantity of material handled. Eye protection is recommended.

    Polyoxyethylene alkyl ethers; polyethylene oxide; polyoxyethylene sorbitan fatty acid esters; polyoxyethylene stearates; suppository bases.