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.
Keywords: transdermal drug delivery, iontophoresis, electroporation, phonophoresis, microneedles, jet-injectors
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