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New Developments in Transdermal Drug Delivery Systems

bThe use of the skin as an alternative route of delivering medicaments has been the subject of intense research over the past 25 years, however its growth has been slow until recently.

The market for transdermal devices is currently estimated at US billion (1), which represents 10 per cent of the entire US billion drug delivery market. In addition, transdermal drug delivery has recently experienced a healthy annual growth rate of 25 per cent, which outpaces oral drug delivery (two per cent) and the inhalation market (20 per cent) (2). Such growth is astonishing when it is considered that the worldwide transdermal therapy market is currently based on only 10 drugs, in spite of the fact that the first transdermal patch was approved by the FDA in 1979. This short list of 'deliverables' highlights the physicochemical restrictions imposed on drug delivery across the skin.

The barrier nature of human skin as a result of its protective function imposes physicochemical limitations to the type of permeant that can traverse the barrier. For a drug to be delivered passively via the skin, it needs to have adequate lipophilicity (Log P, octanol/water 1-3) and also a molecular weight <500Da. A review of patent databases at the United States Patent Office shows that prior to 1980 only six patents had been issued which contained the word OtransdermalO within the patent specifications or claims. As of February 2001, this figure had grown to well over a thousand (3). Thus, with the possible emergence of efficacious and portable, operator friendly, safe, cost-effective devices which circumvent the skin barrier, the addition of new drugs and biopharmaceuticals to currently marketed products will inevitably add value to transdermal drug delivery. This review provides an overview of some of the devices currently in development.

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By Dr Marc B Brown, Chief Technical Officer and Franklin K Akomeah, Research Scientist at MedPharm Ltd

Dr Marc Brown is a Co-Founder of Medpharm Ltd, a drug delivery and pharmaceutical company committed to the creation of unique therapeutic systems for topical use. He is currently the Chief Technical Officer and a Director of the company. He is also a Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics in the Department of Pharmacy, Kingµs College London. His research interests lie mainly in topical drug delivery systems and he has 80 publications and seven patents describing his work.

Franklin Akomeah is a PhD student, supervised by Marc Brown in the Department of Pharmacy, Kings College London. His research project, supported by MedPharm Ltd, involves the development of novel methods of optimising dermal and transdermal drug delivery.
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Dr Marc Brown
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Franklin Akomeah
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