Background: Membrane technologies are of increasing importance in a variety of separation and purification
applications involving liquid phases and gaseous mixtures. Although the most widely used applications at
this time are in water treatment including desalination, there are many applications in chemical, food, healthcare,
paper and petrochemical industries. This brief review is concerned with existing and emerging applications of
various membrane technologies in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry.
Methods: The goal of this review article is to identify important membrane processes and techniques which are
being used or proposed to be used in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical operations. How novel membrane
processes can be useful for delivery of crystalline/particulate drugs is also of interest.
Results: Membrane separation technologies are extensively used in downstream processes for bio-pharmaceutical
separation and purification operations via microfiltration, ultrafiltration and diafiltration. Also the new technique
of membrane chromatography allows efficient purification of monoclonal antibodies. Membrane filtration techniques
of reverse osmosis and nanofiltration are being combined with bioreactors and advanced oxidation processes
to treat wastewaters from pharmaceutical plants. Nanofiltration with organic solvent-stable membranes can
implement solvent exchange and catalyst recovery during organic solvent-based drug synthesis of pharmaceutical
compounds/intermediates. Membranes in the form of hollow fibers can be conveniently used to implement crystallization
of pharmaceutical compounds. The novel crystallization methods of solid hollow fiber cooling crystallizer
(SHFCC) and porous hollow fiber anti-solvent crystallization (PHFAC) are being developed to provide
efficient methods for continuous production of polymer-coated drug crystals in the area of drug delivery.
Conclusion: This brief review provides a general introduction to various applications of membrane technologies
in the pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical industry with special emphasis on novel membrane techniques for
pharmaceutical applications. The method of coating a drug particle with a polymer using the SHFCC method is
stable and ready for scale-up for operation over an extended period.