Design of in vitro skin permeation studies according to the EMA guideline on quality of transdermal patches

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Transdermal patches and medicated plasters are designed to sustain efficacious systemic or loco-regional drug concentrations, respectively. In both cases, drug skin permeation is a critical attribute from the early stage of the pharmaceutical development. In 2014, the EMA introduced the "Guideline on the quality of transdermal patches", in which the importance of equivalence of drug fluxes in in vitro skin permeation study was particularly emphasized to generic or abridged applications for the marketing authorization or manage dossier variations during the product cycle life. Moving from experimental data, this work provides information on the set-up of such studies and the statistical evaluation of obtained fluxes. In particular, the impact of the inter-sample variability on the equivalence assessment was deeply investigated by using formulation pairs containing propranolol, diclofenac or nitroglycerine. The main outputs of the work were attributable to the definition of the acceptability interval and number of replicates to be performed. As an example, the equivalence of two propranolol patches (flux variability lower than 25%) can be assessed using six replicas and a confidence limit within the 0.8–1.25 range (α = 0.05; power 90%). In contrast, the equivalence of diclofenac plasters, which exhibit a variability near the 50%, can be demonstrated increasing the number of replicas (i.e., 20 skin samples) for each formulation and widening the acceptance range according to the statistical approach proposed in the work.

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