Formulation development of transdermal dosage forms: quantitative structure-activity relationship model for predicting activities of terpenes that enhance drug penetration through human skin

J Control Release. 2007 Jul 31;120(3):211-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2007.05.006. Epub 2007 May 17.


Terpenes and terpenoids have been used as enhancers in transdermal formulations for facilitating penetration of drugs into human skin. Knowledge of the correlation between the human skin penetration effect (HSPE) and the physicochemical properties of these enhancers is important for facilitating the discovery and development of more enhancers. In this work, the HSPE of 49 terpenes and terpenoids were compared by the in vitro permeability coefficients of haloperidol (HP) through excised human skin. A first-order multiple linear regression (MLR) model was constructed to link the permeability coefficient of the drug to the lipophilicity, molecular weight, boiling point, the terpene type and the functional group of each enhancer. The Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) model was derived from our data generated by using standardized experimental protocols, which include: HP in propylene glycol (PG) of 3 mg/ml as the donor solution containing 5% (w/v) of the respective terpene, the same composition and volume of receptor solution, similar human skin samples, in the same set of automated flow-through diffusion cells. The model provided a simple method to predict the enhancing effects of terpenes for drugs with physicochemical properties similar to HP. Our study suggested that an ideal terpene enhancer should possess at least one or combinations of the following properties: hydrophobic, in liquid form at room temperature, with an ester or aldehyde but not acid functional group, and is neither a triterpene nor tetraterpene. Possible mechanisms revealed by the QSAR model were discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / drug effects
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Molecular Weight
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship*
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects*
  • Terpenes / chemistry
  • Terpenes / classification
  • Terpenes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology*


  • Terpenes