Propofol: The Challenges of Formulation

Anesthesiology. 2005 Oct;103(4):860-76. doi: 10.1097/00000542-200510000-00026.


Propofol is a potent lipophilic anesthetic that was initially formulated in Cremophor El for human use. Because of the occurrence of Cremophor EL anaphylaxis and improvements in the quality of lipid emulsions, it was ultimately brought to market as 1% propofol formulated in 10% soybean oil emulsion. Emulsions represent complex formulation compositions whose suitability for intravenous administration is dependent on a number of factors. Despite the success of propofol emulsions, drawbacks to such formulations include inherent emulsion instability, injection pain, a need for antimicrobial agents to prevent sepsis, and a concern of hyperlipidemia-related side effects. Efforts to overcome such drawbacks have involved the development of propofol emulsions with altered propofol and lipid contents, the addition of different excipients to emulsions for antimicrobial activity, and study of nonemulsion formulations including propofol-cyclodextrin and propofol-polymeric micelle formulations. In addition, a number of propofol prodrugs have been made and evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Cyclodextrins / administration & dosage
  • Drug Stability
  • Edetic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Emulsions
  • Glycerol / administration & dosage
  • Glycerol / analogs & derivatives
  • Micelles
  • Particle Size
  • Prodrugs / administration & dosage
  • Propofol / administration & dosage*
  • Propofol / adverse effects
  • Propofol / chemistry
  • Sulfites / administration & dosage


  • Cyclodextrins
  • Emulsions
  • Micelles
  • Prodrugs
  • Sulfites
  • cremophor EL
  • Edetic Acid
  • Glycerol
  • Propofol