On the Use of Wax, Tallow, Etc., in Suppositories, part 1.



QUERY 29.—The fusing-point of true butter of cacao being near that of the temperature of the body, what is the influence of such additions as wax, tallow, &c., on its fusing-point, and to what extent are such additions objectionable, if at all, in vaginal or urethral suppositories?

Pure cacao-butter may be asserted to be but rarely if ever met with in the drug market. The samples for sale vary sensibly in color and consistency, and no positive rule for judging of a pure article by cursory examination can be offered. A candid admission by several prominent manufacturers of the article, reveals the fact of its frequent adulteration, and since the extended demand and sale of this production for cosmetic and suppository application, a greater variety of mixtures known as butter of cacao is to be found than formerly.

The pharmacist, however, but seldom applies it to uses other than in the preparation of suppositories, the successful use of which depends upon a base, whose point of fusion will correspond to animal heat, which can be handled readily when in form, and which upon exposure to the natural heat of the body will promptly liquefy, not melt slowly, thus depositing quickly the medicating ingredient upon the surface to which it has been exhibited.

The butter of cacao most nearly satisfactory to pharmacial use, is of a dirty white, inclined to yellow in appearance, firm under pressure, yet disposed to yield its surface when held in the hand by the warmth thus imparted, fusing readily at or about 98°, which sets rapidly after fusion when exposed to cold, and which, after such exposure, maintains its original character at ordinary temperatures.

Such cacao-butter may be had. I here exhibit a specimen, and under proper manipulation it needs no addition of a hardening ingredient to adapt it to suppository use.

Cacao-butter at 98° F. liquefies. This is more apparent in the rectum or vagina than by merely holding in the hand. The mixtures, I mean the mixtures made by the pharmacist with the cacao-butter of the market, vary in their behavior in proportion to the quantity and character of the hardening ingredient used in connection with it.

A considerable proportion of cetaceum may be added without materially affecting the value of a suppository; at least ten per cent., if combined with the butter, will produce a suppository which will not be likely to be complained of by the medical profession, but the slowness with which this alloy, so to speak, fuses, makes this or the addition of any hardening substance a serious objection. We need promptness of action in the application of medicines by suppository, which can be best secured by rapid liquefaction of the excipient, and no mixture or single substance combines the essential requisites, so completely, as a good sample of so-called cacao-butter.

The addition of wax to cacao-butter is to be reprehended. While, under restriction, a mixture may be formed which will harden more quickly and bear more handling than the butter alone, the reflecting pharmacist will bear in mind the slowness of its fusion at animal heat, and the consequent suspension of the medicine, which should be diffused and deposited over as large a surface as possible.

Content with the simple fusion of such mixtures, the ease with which they may be manipulated, and the temptation to dispense quickly, the more important fact has been overlooked by many, who will doubtless correct the error in their future operations. I have invariably found that when the additions were not large enough to render the use of the moulded cones inadmissible, there was no advantage gained by a combination of base or excipient.

With regard to the effect upon the animal tissues of such applications of hardened suppositories, I can only say that where they are of such a character as to produce local irritation, the uneasiness induced requires their removal; this objection is now but seldom met with. Within the past two years the education of the pharmacist has materially advanced in this direction, so that no store of repute dispenses cones that will not at least fuse at animal temperature, however slowly this fusion may occur, or however imperfectly they may medicate from the suspension of the medicine until its ejection by the action of the parts. Those having but occasional prescriptions for them, are now in the habit of depending on the larger retail establishments, who furnish the trade with a great variety.

There need be no apprehension of a local irritation arising from the use of wax, if not carried beyond the proper fusing-point. As much as fourteen per cent. is used by pharmacists of good repute, without complaint in this respect. The mixture fuses quite slowly at animal temperature, but there is no apparent dissection of the cone, whereby the wax is separated from the butter during fusion, however much this may be the case when the melted substances are allowed to cool ad libitum. There is a uniformity of constitution so long as the heat is present.

(To be continued in the April number.)

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).