The aim of this work was to characterize in vitro and ex vivo the performances of Durogesic and of two bioequivalent generic products, by evaluating: (a) fentanyl release; (b) fentanyl permeation across porcine skin and (c) fentanyl ease of extraction. Additional characteristics studied are the effect of temperature and skin integrity, applied individually or combined, to check a possible synergism. The two generic patches resulted equivalent to the originator according to the new Guideline. Nevertheless, the same data reported in a different way, i.e. considering the total amount of drug permeated from the whole patch over the application time, highlight differences among the patches. The additional tests performed showed that skin integrity does not represent a barrier for fentanyl permeation across the skin, regardless of the type and complexity of the patch. The effect of temperature resulted critical for two out of three patches, probably due to the different composition and to the different structure. The combination of skin damage and elevated temperature did not produce a synergistic effect. Fentanyl extraction was different for the different products and variable according to the conditions used.
The results reported in the present work underline the influence of patch composition and complexity on fentanyl extraction, release and skin permeation, in particular in conditions that can be critical, such as elevated temperature. In particular, the effect of critical variables, such as skin integrity and temperature, should be addressed to in the development of a new or new generic patch and new discriminant tests should be developed.