Transdermal drug delivery has made an important contribution to medical practice, but has yet to fully achieve its potential as an alternative to oral delivery and hypodermic injections. First-generation transdermal delivery systems have continued their steady increase in clinical use for delivery of small, lipophilic, low-dose drugs. Second-generation delivery systems using chemical enhancers, noncavitational ultrasound and iontophoresis have also resulted in clinical products; the ability of iontophoresis to control delivery rates in real time provides added functionality. Third-generation delivery systems target their effects to skin's barrier layer of stratum corneum using microneedles, thermal ablation, microdermabrasion, electroporation and cavitational ultrasound. Microneedles and thermal ablation are currently progressing through clinical trials for delivery of macromolecules and vaccines, such as insulin, parathyroid hormone and influenza vaccine. Using these novel second- and third-generation enhancement strategies, transdermal delivery is poised to significantly increase its impact on medicine.