Skin permeation enhancement by sucrose esters: A pH-dependent phenomenon

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The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effect of sucrose esters (particularly, sucrose laureate and sucrose oleate in Transcutol®) on the percutaneous penetration of a charged molecule as a function of ionization. We have investigated the influence of these sucrose esters on the in vitro diffusion profiles of lidocaine hydrochloride, a weak ionizable base (pKa = 7.9), at different pH values, using porcine ear skin as the barrier membrane. As expected, lidocaine flux in the absence of an enhancer, increased from pH 5 to 9 with a corrresponding increase in the level of the unionized base. However, when skin was pretreated with 2% laureate in Transcutol (2% L-TC), drug permeation was higher at pH 5.0 and 7.0 than at 9.0. A different trend was observed in experiments with 2% oleate in Transcutol (2% O-TC), where skin flux was maximal at a more basic pH, when the degree of ionization is low. The results suggest that sucrose laureate enhances the penetration of the ionized form of the drug (12-fold greater flux relative to control), whereas sucrose oleate is more effective in promoting permeation of the unionized species. The structural properties of the sucrose esters as well as the degree of ionization of the drug are important characteristics affecting the transdermal flux of lidocaine.

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