Iontophoretic drug delivery

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2004 Mar 27;56(5):619-58. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2003.10.026.


The composition and architecture of the stratum corneum render it a formidable barrier to the topical and transdermal administration of therapeutic agents. The physicochemical constraints severely limit the number of molecules that can be considered as realistic candidates for transdermal delivery. Iontophoresis provides a mechanism to enhance the penetration of hydrophilic and charged molecules across the skin. The principal distinguishing feature is the control afforded by iontophoresis and the ability to individualize therapies. This may become significant as the impact of interindividual variations in protein expression and the effect on drug metabolism and drug efficacy is better understood. In this review we describe the underlying mechanisms that drive iontophoresis and we discuss the impact of key experimental parameters-namely, drug concentration, applied current and pH-on iontophoretic delivery efficiency. We present a comprehensive and critical review of the different therapeutic classes and molecules that have been investigated as potential candidates for iontophoretic delivery. The iontophoretic delivery of peptides and proteins is also discussed. In the final section, we describe the development of the first pre-filled, pre-programmed iontophoretic device, which is scheduled to be commercialized during the course of 2004.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Iontophoresis*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption / physiology
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations