Process Research and Impurity Control Strategy of Esketamine

An improved synthesis of (S)-ketamine (esketamine) has been developed, which was cost-effective, and the undesired isomer could be recovered by racemization. Critical process parameters of each step were identified as well as the process-related impurities. The formation mechanisms and control strategies of most impurities were first discussed. Moreover, the (S)-ketamine tartrate is a dihydrate, which was disclosed for the first time. The practicable racemization catalyzed by aluminum chloride was carried out in quantitative yield with 99% purity. The ICH-grade quality (S)-ketamine hydrochloride was obtained in 51.1% overall yield (14.0% without racemization) by chiral resolution with three times recycling of the mother liquors. The robust process of esketamine could be industrially scalable.