WelChol is marketed by Genzyme Corporation's (Cambridge, MA) US marketing partner for the product, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. (Parsippany, NJ).
WelChol is indicated for lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and was approved by FDA in May 2000. In December
2006, Daiichi Sanyko submitted a supplemental new drug application to the FDA for WelChol to improve glycemic control in patients
with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. If approved, WelChol will be the first LDL cholesterol-lowering medication also indicated for
improving glycemic control. The new indication for WelChol for treating Type 2 diabetes would potentially increase the volume
requirements for colesevelam.
To meet current and projected demand, DSM is evaluating a potential new investment at its Linz facility, which would include
the addition of new manufacturing equipment to increase the efficiency in the gel-cutting procedure and the reaction part
of the colesevelam production unit.
In December 2006, DSM produced its millionth kilogram of colesevelam at the Linz facility. DSM optimized the manufacturing
process for colesevelam and supplied the initial 25 kg for conducting the first human clinical trials to the innovator of
the product, Geltex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Genzyme in 2000. DSM has manufactured the API on a commercial scale since the drug's US marketing approval
in 2000 and European approval in 2004.
In optimizing the manufacturing process for colesevelam, DSM had to overcome certain key challenges. Colesevelam is poly (allylamine
hydrochloride), cross-linked with epichlorohydrin and alkylated with (6-bromohexyl) trimethylammonium bromide and 1-bromodecane.The
main steps of the API synthesis are the cross-linking of poly (allylamine hydrochloride) and the alkylation of the cross-linked
Geltex first approached DSM with the project because it had difficulty producing the product on an industrial scale. Although
the synthesis of the compound was not problematic, the material is a polymer hydrogel, and DSM had to design specialized equipment
to cut the material. DSM engineer George Haubel worked with a team that designed the gel cutter and the specific reactors
for polymer-suspension reactions.
DSM optimized the manufacturing process for colesevelam, which is carried out by cross-linkage, comminution, alkylation, washing
with several washing steps between the individual stages, and drying in a fluid-bed dryer (4). Following polymerization, the
cured crude gel is cut in a defined shape, washed with methanol batchwise in a static or stirred bed, followed by alkylation
in methanol. The akylated gel is washed in methanol and sodium chloride in a static or stirred bed followed by washes of sodium
chloride and final water washes with deionized water (4). Because of the adhesive quality of the gel, the material is dried
in a fluid-bed dryer because it adheres to the surface of a cone dryer.
The particle size of the API is important for the clinical efficacy of the drug. Colesevelam is a non-systemic drug that is
not absorbed into the bloodstream and does not pass through the liver and kidneys. It travels through the body to the intestines,
where it binds to bile acids, which are then carried out of the body by the normal digestive process. Bile acids are made
from cholesterol. The body needs to use LDL to make more bile acids. This process reduces the amount of bad cholesterol in
If the particle size of the API were too small, it would be absorbed by the body, and if too large, it would be retained in
the system. Micronization of the API is performed by Powdersize, Inc. (Quakertown, PA).
An emerging area in API development is aptamers. Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids that form well-defined three-dimensional
shapes, which allows them to bind to target molecules in a manner that is conceptually similar to antibodies, according to
Archemix (Cambridge, MA), a company specializing in aptamer development. Unlike monoclonal antibodies, aptamers are chemically synthesized,
rather than biologically expressed.
Archemix recently signed aptamer drug development pacts with Merck KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany), Takeda Pharmaceutical Company (Osaka, Japan), and Pfizer.