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Peptide and protein-like drugs are macromolecules currently produced in increasing numbers by the pharmaceutical biotechnology industry. The physicochemical properties of these molecules pose barriers to oral administration. Lipid-based drug-delivery systems have the potential to overcome these barriers and may be utilized to formulate safe, stable and efficacious oral medicines. This review outlines the design of such lipid-based technologies. The mechanisms whereby these formulations enhance the absorption of lipophilic versus hydrophilic peptide and protein-like drugs are discussed. In the case of lipophilic compounds, the advantages of lipid-based drug-delivery systems including increased solubilization, decreased intestinal efflux, decreased intracellular metabolism and possible lymphatic transport are well established as is evident from the success of Neoral® and other drug products on the market. In contrast, with respect to hydrophilic compounds, the situation is more complex and, while promising formulation approaches have been studied, issues including reproducibility of response, intersubject variability and duration of response require further optimization before commercially viable products are possible.