Poly(ortho esters): synthesis, characterization, properties and uses

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2002 Oct 16;54(7):1015-39. doi: 10.1016/s0169-409x(02)00055-8.


Over the last 30 years, poly(ortho esters) have evolved through four families, designated as POE I, POE II, POE III and POE IV. Of these, only POE IV has been shown to have all the necessary attributes to allow commercialization, and such efforts are currently underway. Dominant among these attributes is synthesis versatility that allows the facile and reproducible production of polymers having the desired mechanical and thermal properties as well as desired erosion rates and drug release rates that can be varied from a few days to many months. Further, the polymer is stable at room temperature when stored under anhydrous conditions and undergoes an erosion process confined predominantly to the surface layers. Important consequences of surface erosion are controlled and concomitant drug release as well as the maintenance of an essentially neutral pH in the interior of the matrix because acidic hydrolysis products diffuse away from the device. Two physical forms of such polymers are under development. One form, solid materials, can be fabricated into shapes such as wafers, strands, or microspheres. The other form are injectable semi-solid materials that allow drug incorporation by a simple mixing at room temperature and without the use of solvents. GMP toxicology studies on one family of POE IV polymers has been concluded, an IND filed and Phase I clinical trials are in progress. Important applications under development are treatment of post-surgical pain, osteoarthritis and ophthalmic diseases as well as the delivery of proteins, including DNA. Block copolymers of poly(ortho ester) and poly(ethylene glycol) have been prepared and their use as a matrix for drug delivery and as micelles, primarily for tumor targeting, are being explored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Humans
  • Polymers / administration & dosage
  • Polymers / chemical synthesis*
  • Polymers / pharmacokinetics*


  • Polymers
  • poly(ortho ester)