Drug delivery to the mucus covered mucosae is fraught with difficulties and many different approaches have been developed to permeate the mucus barrier. Generally by modifying the delivery system to avoid interaction with the mucus. These modifications are reviewed here in terms of efficacy and safety. These are particular problems for oral delivery the pharmaceutical industry's favoured route for drug administration. For effective delivery through the gastrointestinal tract a drug must pass through three barriers in sufficient amounts to yield a biological effect. These barriers are the digestive barrier in the lumen, the mucus barrier, and the epithelial barrier.
Other approaches involve mucolytic agents added with or prior to the delivery system or agents regulating mucus production and are reviewed here. In terms of safety, a key property of a mucus modulating delivery system is that it must not damage the protective function of the mucus layer.