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Absorption-Enhanced Topical Medications: Opportunity for New Speciality Pharmaceuticals

Despite the attractiveness of topical dosage forms, only a handful of systemic medications are routinely delivered through the skin: clonidine, oestrogen, testosterone, scopolamine, nitroglycerin, nicotine and fentanyl. With few exceptions, most of these compounds are delivered via transdermal patches. However, through the use of proprietary absorption enhancers, several topical drug delivery companies are developing the first of a new series of transdermally delivered formulations containing compounds previously thought to be impractical due to poor skin penetration. These preparations typically combine an off-patent active with one of those proprietary enhancers. If successful, these pilot products may encourage more companies to consider absorption-enhanced topical delivery for their new and expiring-patent single chemical entities.

When compared to the wide range of controlled-release oral medication, transdermal patches and depot drug delivery systems, the use of gels, creams and sprays to deliver drugs systemically is a small segment of the billion drug delivery market and is often misperceived as 'low-tech'. Most pharmaceutical industry executives believe oral solid dosage forms to be the most convenient and predictable way to administer prescription drugs to most patients. Certainly, from development and manufacturing perspectives, solid dosage forms hold great appeal. Intestinal absorption is fairly predictable, and it is hard to dispute that for most people swallowing a tablet or capsule with a glass of water is an almost effortless administration method. However, anyone who has tried to administer a solid dosage form to a very young child or a very old adult can appreciate the potential advantage of a topical gel or cream that requires little or no co-operation from the patient.


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By Mel Snyder, Vice President of Market Development and Dr Thomas CK Chan PhD, Vice President of Research and Development and Chief Technology Officer at MacroChem Corporation

Mel Snyder is Vice President of Market Development at MacroChem Corporation. He joined MacroChem as a Consultant in 1999, and accepted his current position in late 2000. Prior to MacroChem, Mr Snyder was Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Immunomedics, a monoclonal antibody company. In 1975 he founded ProClinica Inc, a marketing communications and licensing support company in New York and Brussels. He earned a Bachelor's degree from the College of Arts & Sciences at Lehigh University.

Dr Thomas CK Chan is Vice President of Research and Development and Chief Technology Officer at MacroChem Corporation. Dr Chan earned a BSc in Biochemistry/Microbiology and a Doctorate in Clinical Pharmacology from the University of British Columbia. He also completed a fellowship in Haematology/Oncology at the UCSD Cancer Center in San Diego. Dr Chan joined MacroChem in 2000 where he is currently responsible for all research and development activities in the company.
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Mel Snyder
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Dr Thomas CK Chan
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