Formulation issues associated with transdermal fentanyl delivery

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Supersaturation has previously been studied as a mechanism to enhance membrane transport of fentanyl from propylene glycol:water formulations (PG:H2O) across silicone. In this study these supersaturated fentanyl formulations were evaluated in human skin. A number of polymers were also screened for their ability to stabilise the supersaturated formulations and permeation was evaluated for both infinite and finite doses. For infinite dose studies, permeation in skin increased linearly with increasing degree of drug saturation (DS) for formulations containing 0.5, 1, 2 DS of fentanyl and a 3 DS formulation stabilised with 1% (w/v) hydroxypropylcellulose (HPC). An excellent correlation was obtained for flux values in silicone compared with flux values in skin, for infinite dose studies for formulations containing 0.5, 1, 2 DS of fentanyl and the 3 DS formulation stabilised HPC. The concentration of the fentanyl in the stratum corneum also increased in proportion to the DS. However the same trend was not observed for finite dose studies. This is because the depletion of the solvent carrier promotes drug crystallisation with consequent implications for membrane transport. Tape-stripping experiments indicated that supersaturation of the drug is maintained in the outer layers of the stratum corneum. The ideal vehicle must, therefore, maintain the drug in solution on and in the skin in a sustained manner for effective transdermal delivery.

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