Prescription Balances
note—Balances other than the type described herein may be used if these afford equivalent or better accuracy. This includes micro-, semimicro-, or electronic single-pan balances (see Weights and Balances 41). Some balances offer digital or direct-reading features. All balances should be calibrated and tested frequently using appropriate test weights, both singly and in combination.
Description— A prescription balance is a scale or balance adapted to weighing medicinal and other substances required in prescriptions or in other pharmaceutical compounding. It is constructed so as to support its full capacity without developing undue stresses, and its adjustment is not altered by repeated weighings of the capacity load. The removable pans or weighing vessels should be of equal weight. The balance should have leveling feet or screws. The balance may feature dial-in weights and also a precision spring and dial instead of a weighbeam. A balance that has a graduated weighbeam must have a stop that halts the rider or poise at the zero reading. The reading edge of the rider is parallel to the graduations on the weighbeam. The distance from the face of the index plate to the indicator pointer or pointers should be not more than 1.0 mm, the points should be sharp, and when there are two, their ends should be separated by not more than 1.0 mm when the scale is in balance. The indicating elements and the lever system should be protected against drafts, and the balance lid should permit free movement of the loaded weighing pans when the lid is closed. The balance must have a mechanical arresting device.
Capacity— Maximum weight, including the weight of tares, to be placed on one pan. The N.B.S. Handbook 44, 4th ed., states: “In the absence of information to the contrary, the nominal capacity of a Class A balance shall be assumed to be 15.5 g (½ apothecaries' ounce).” Most of the commercially available Class A balances have a capacity of 120 g and bear a statement to that effect.
Weighbeam or Beam— A graduated bar equipped with a movable poise or rider. Metric graduations are in 0.01-g increments up to a maximum of 1.0 g.
Tare Bar— An auxiliary ungraduated weighbeam bar with a movable poise. It can be used to correct for variations in weighing glasses or papers.
Balance Indicator— A combination of elements, one or both of which will oscillate with respect to the other, to indicate the equilibrium state of the balance during weighing.
Rest Point— The point on the index plate at which the indicator or pointer stops when the oscillations of the balance cease; or the index plate position of the indicator or pointer calculated from recorded consecutive oscillations in both directions past the zero of the index plate scale. If the balance has a two-pointer indicating mechanism, the position or the oscillations of only one of the pointers need be recorded or used to determine the rest point.
Sensitivity Requirements (SR) The maximum change in load that will cause a specified change, one subdivision on the index plate, in the position of rest of the indicating element or elements of the balance.
Class A Prescription Balance— A balance that meets the tests for this type of balance has a sensitivity requirement of 6 mg or less with no load and with a load of 10 g on each pan. The Class A balance should be used for all the weighing operations required in prescription compounding.
In order to avoid errors of 5% or more that might be due to the limit of sensitivity of the Class A prescription balance, do not weigh less than 120 mg of any material. If a smaller weight of dry material is required, mix a larger known weight of the ingredient with a known weight of dry diluent, and weigh an aliquot portion of the mixture for use.
Testing the Prescription Balance— A Class A prescription balance meets the following four basic tests. Use a set of test weights, and keep the rider on the weighbeam at zero unless directed to change its position.
1. Sensitivity Requirement—Level the balance, determine the rest point, and place a 6-mg weight on one of the empty pans. Repeat the operation with a 10-g weight in the center of each pan. The rest point is shifted not less than one division on the index plate each time the 6-mg weight is added.
2. Arm Ratio Test—This test is designed to check the equality of length of both arms of the balance. Determine the rest point of the balance with no weight on the pans. Place in the center of each pan a 30-g test weight, and determine the rest point. If the second rest point is not the same as the first, place a 20-mg weight on the lighter side; the rest point should move back to the original place on the index plate scale or farther.
3. Shift Tests—These tests are designed to check the arm and lever components of the balance.
A. Determine the rest point of the indicator without any weights on the pans.
B. Place one of the 10-g weights in the center of the left pan, and place the other 10-g weight successively toward the right, left, front, and back of the right pan, noting the rest point in each case. If in any case the rest point differs from the rest point determined in Step A, add a 10-mg weight to the lighter side; this should cause the rest point to shift back to the rest point determined in Step A or farther.
C. Place a 10-g weight in the center of the right pan, and place a 10-g weight successively toward the right, left, front, and back of the left pan, noting the rest point in each case. If in any case the rest point is different from that obtained with no weights on the pans, this difference should be overcome by addition of the 10-mg weight to the lighter side.
D. Make a series of observations in which both weights are simultaneously shifted to off-center positions on their pans: both toward the outside, both toward the inside, one toward the outside and the other toward the inside, both toward the back, and so on until all combinations have been checked. If in any case the rest point differs from that obtained with no weights on the pan, the addition of the 10-mg weight to the lighter side should overcome this difference.
A balance that does not meet the requirements of these tests must be adjusted.
4. Rider and Graduated Beam Tests—Determine the rest point for the balance with no weight on the pans. Place on the left pan the 500-mg test weight, move the rider to the 500-mg point on the beam, and determine the rest point. If it is different from the zero rest point, add a 6-mg weight to the lighter side. This addition should bring the rest point back to its original position or farther. Repeat this test, using the 1-g test weight and moving the rider to the 1-g division on the beam. If the rest point is different, it should be brought back at least to the zero rest point position by the addition of 6 mg to the lighter pan. If the balance does not meet this test, the weighbeam graduations or the rider must be corrected.
Metric or apothecaries' weights for use with a prescription balance should be kept in a special rigid and compartmentalized box and handled with plastic or plastic-tipped forceps to prevent scratching or soiling. For prescription use, analytical weights (Class P or better) are recommended. However, Class Q weights have tolerances well within the limits of accuracy of the prescription balance, and they retain their accuracy for a long time with proper care. Coin-type (or disk-shaped) weights should not be used.
Test weights consisting of two 20-g or two 30-g, two 10-g, one 1-g, one 500-mg, one 20-mg, one 10-mg, and one 6-mg (or suitable combination totaling 6 mg) weights, adjusted to N.B.S. tolerances for analytical weights (Class P or better) should be used for testing the prescription balances. These weights should be kept in a tightly closed box and should be handled only with plastic or plastic-tipped forceps. The set of test weights should be used only for testing the balance or constantly used weights. If properly cared for, the set lasts indefinitely.

Volumetric Apparatus
Pharmaceutical devices for measuring volumes of liquids, including burets, pipets, and cylinders graduated either in metric or apothecary units meet the standard specifications for glass volumetric apparatus described in NTIS COM-73-10504 of the National Technical Information Service.1 Conical graduates meet the standard specifications described in N.B.S. Handbook 44, 4th Edition, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.2 Graduated medicine droppers meet the specifications (see Medicine Dropper 1101). An acceptable ungraduated medicine dropper has a delivery end 3 mm in external diameter and delivers 20 drops of water, weighing 1 g at a temperature of 15. A tolerance of ±10% of the delivery specification is reasonable.
Selection and Use of Graduates—
Capacity— The capacity of a graduate is the designated volume, at the maximum graduation, that the graduate will contain, or deliver, as indicated, at the specified temperature.
Cylindrical and Conical Graduates— The error in a measured volume caused by a deviation of ±1 mm in reading the lower meniscus in a graduated cylinder remains constant along the height of the uniform column. The same deviation of ±1 mm causes a progressively larger error in a conical graduate, the extent of the error being further dependent upon the angle of the flared sides to the perpendicular of the upright graduate. A deviation of ±1 mm in the meniscus reading causes an error of approximately 0.5 mL in the measured volume at any mark on the uniform 100-mL cylinder graduate. The same deviation of ±1 mm can cause an error of 1.8 mL at the 100-mL mark on an acceptable conical graduate marked for 125 mL.
A general rule for selection of a graduate for use is to use the graduate with a capacity equal to or just exceeding the volume to be measured. Measurement of small volumes in large graduates tends to increase errors, because the larger diameter increases the volume error in a deviation of ±1 mm from the mark. The relation of the volume error to the internal diameters of graduated cylinders is based on the equation V = r2h. An acceptable 10-mL cylinder having an internal diameter of 1.18 cm holds 109 µL in 1 mm of the column. Reading 4.5 mL in this graduate with a deviation of ±1 mm from the mark causes an error of about ±2.5%, and the same deviation in a volume of 2.2 mL in the same graduate causes an error of about ±5%. Minimum volumes that can be measured within certain limits of error in graduated cylinders of different capacities are incorporated in the design details of graduates in N.B.S. Handbook 44, 4th ed., of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Conical graduates having a capacity of less than 25 mL should not be used in prescription compounding.

1  NTIS COM-73-10504 is for sale by the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22151.
2  N.B.S. Handbook 44, 4th ed. (1971), is for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

Auxiliary Information—
Please check for your question in the FAQs before contacting USP.
Topic/Question Contact Expert Committee
General Chapter Rick G. Schnatz
Manager, Compounding Pharmacy Expert Committee
(CRX05) Compounding Pharmacy05
USP32–NF27 Page 691