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Physical Enhancement of Transdermal Drug Application: Is Delivery Technology Keeping up with Pharmaceutical Development?

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Advances in molecular biology have given us a wide range of protein and peptide-based drugs that are unsuitable for oral delivery because of their high degree of first-pass metabolism. Though parenteral delivery is the obvious answer, for the successful development of commercial chronic and self-administration usage formulations it is not the ideal choice. Transdermal delivery is emerging as the biggest application target for these agents, however, the skin is extremely efficient at keeping out such large molecular weight compounds and therapeutic levels are never going to be realistically achieved by passive absorption. Physical enhancement mechanisms including: iontophoresis, electroporation, ultrasound, photomechanical waves, microneedles and jet-propelled particles are emerging as solutions to this topical delivery dilemma. Adding proteins and peptides to the list of other large molecular weight drugs with insufficient passive transdermal fluxes to be therapeutically useful, we have a collection of pharmacological agents waiting for efficient delivery methods to be introduced. This article reviews the current state of physical transdermal delivery technology, assesses the pros and cons of each technique and summarises the evidence-base of their drug delivery capabilities.
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Keywords: electroporation; iontophoresis; jet-injectors; microneedles; phonophoresis; transdermal drug delivery

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Therapeutics Research Unit, Southern Clinical Division, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland 4102, Australia.

Publication date: 01 January 2004

More about this publication?
  • The aim of Current Drug Delivery is to publish peer-reviewed articles, short communications, short and in-depth reviews in the rapidly developing field of drug delivery. Modern drug research aims to build in delivery properties of a drug at the design phase, however in many cases this ideal cannot be met and the development of delivery systems becomes as important as the development as the drugs themselves.

    The journal aims to cover the latest outstanding developments in drug and vaccine delivery employing physical, physico-chemical and chemical methods. The drugs include a wide range of bioactive compounds from simple pharmaceuticals to peptides, proteins, nucleotides, nucleosides and sugars. The journal will also report progress in the fields of transport routes and mechanisms including efflux proteins and multi-drug resistance.

    The journal is essential for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug design, development and delivery.
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