Energetic competition in the complexation affinity of paracetamol with water and oxalic acid

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Department of Chemistry


The intermolecular interactions of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are the driving forces of API molecular activity and stability, in vivo receptor binding, environmental transport, and persistence. In manufacturing, API complexation with another molecule to create stable crystalline structures is pursued, but the formation of more energetically stable complexes can lead to undesired consequences. Density functional theory (DFT) was used to describe the role played by hydrogen bonding in the formation of paracetamol and oxalic acid (PCA-OXA) complexes. PCA-OXA hydrogen bonding sites were investigated to determine strength and overall contribution/competition during the initial stages of the nucleation process. Structural and energetic changes were evaluated for 1:1 PCA-OXA, PCA-Water, and OXA-Water complexes both in vacuum and in water environments via explicit and implicit solvation. Results show significant shortening of the hydrogen bonds within the PCA-OXA complex with large changes in energy in the PCA-OXA complexation mechanism. Two out of the four complexation sites play the largest roles in the initial steps of the nucleation process. In an aqueous environment, little to no energetic competition for PCA hydrogen bonds formation with other molecules is observed. Post Hartree–Fock methods (MP2 and CCSD) were used to calibrate and verify the DFT results.

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Molecular Physics