Cetrimide is a white to creamy white, free-flowing powder, with a faint but characteristic odor and a bitter, soapy taste.

Nonproprietary Names

  • BP: Cetrimide
  • PhEur: Cetrimide


Bromat; Cetab; Cetavlon; Cetraol; cetrimidum; Lissolamine V; Micol; Morpan CHSA; Morphans; Quammonium; Sucticide.

Chemical Name and CAS Registry Number

Cetrimide [8044-71-1]

Note that the above name, CAS Registry Number, and synonyms refer to the PhEur 6.0 material which, although it consists predominantly of trimethyltetradecylammonium bromide, may also contain smaller amounts of other bromides.

There is some confusion in the literature regarding the synonyms, CAS Registry Number, and molecular weight applied to cetrimide. Chemical Abstracts has assigned [8044-71-1] to cetrimide and describes that material as a mixture of alkyltrimethylammonium bromides of different alkyl chain lengths. Different CAS Registry Numbers have been assigned to the individual pure components.

While these numbers should not be interchanged, it is common to find the molecular weight and CAS Registry Number of trimethyl tetradecyl ammonium bromide [1119-97-7] used for cetrimide, as this is the principal component, defined in both the BP 2009 and PhEur 6.0. It should be noted however, that the original BP 1953 described the principal component of cetrimide as hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide.

The CAS Registry Number for hexadecyltrimethylammonium hydroxide [505-86-2] has also been widely applied to cetrimide. Therefore, careful inspection of experimental details and suppliers’ specifications in the literature is encouraged to determine the specific nature of the ‘cetrimide’ material used in individual studies.


Empirical Formula and Molecular Weight

Cetrimide consists mainly of trimethyltetradecylammonium bromide (C17H38BrN), and may contain smaller amounts of dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide (C15H34BrN) and hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (C19H42BrN). C17H38BrN 336.40

Applications in Pharmaceutical Formulation or Technology

Cetrimide is a quaternary ammonium compound that is used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical formulations as an antimicrobial preservative. It may also be used as a cationic surfactant. In eye-drops, it is used as a preservative at a concentration of 0.005% w/v.

Therapeutically, cetrimide is used in relatively high concentrations, generally as 0.1–1.0% w/v aqueous solutions, cream or spray as a topical antiseptic for skin, burns, and wounds. Solutions containing up to 10% w/v cetrimide are used as shampoos to remove the scales in seborrheic dermatitis.

Cetrimide is also used as a cleanser and disinfectant for hard contact lenses, although it should not be used on soft lenses; as an ingredient of cetrimide emulsifying wax, and in o/w creams (e.g. cetrimide cream).

Method of Manufacture

Cetrimide is prepared by the condensation of suitable alkyl bromides and trimethylamine.

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