Pulmonary drug delivery systems: recent developments and prospects

Crit Rev Ther Drug Carrier Syst. 2002;19(4-5):425-98. doi: 10.1615/critrevtherdrugcarriersyst.v19.i45.40.


Targeting drug delivery into the lungs has become one of the most important aspects of systemic or local drug delivery systems. Consequently, in the last few years, techniques and new drug delivery devices intended to deliver drugs into the lungs have been widely developed. Currently, the main drug targeting regimens include direct application of a drug into the lungs, mostly by inhalation therapy using either pressurized metered dose inhalers (pMDI) or dry powder inhalers (DPI). Intratracheal administration is commonly used as a first approach in lung drug delivery in vivo. To convey a sufficient dose of drug to the lungs, suitable drug carriers are required. These can be either solid, liquid, or gaseous excipients. Liposomes, nano- and microparticles, cyclodextrins, microemulsions, micelles, suspensions, or solutions are all examples of this type of pharmaceutical carrier that have been successfully used to target drugs into the lungs. The use of microreservoir-type systems offers clear advantages, such as high loading capacity and the possibility of controlling size and permeability, and thus of controlling the release kinetics of the drugs from the carrier systems. These systems make it possible to use relatively small numbers of vector molecules to deliver substantial amounts of a drug to the target. This review discusses the drug carriers administered or intended to be administered into the lungs. The transition to CFC-free inhalers and drug delivery systems formulated with new propellants are also discussed. Finally, in addition to the various advances made in the field of pulmonary-route administration, we describe new systems based on perfluorooctyl bromide, which guarantee oxygen delivery in the event of respiratory distress and drug delivery into the lungs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Drug Carriers
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Drug Delivery Systems / trends
  • Drug Design
  • Emulsions
  • Humans
  • Lung* / metabolism
  • Lung* / physiology
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Particle Size
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Pharmaceutical Solutions
  • Suspensions


  • Drug Carriers
  • Emulsions
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Pharmaceutical Solutions
  • Suspensions