The blood-brain barrier (BBB) limits the distribution of systemically administered therapeutics to the central nervous system (CNS), posing a significant challenge to drug development efforts to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases and disorders. Intranasal delivery is a noninvasive and convenient method that rapidly targets therapeutics to the CNS, bypassing the BBB and minimizing systemic exposure. This review focuses on the current understanding of the mechanisms underlying intranasal delivery to the CNS, with a discussion of pathways from the nasal cavity to the CNS involving the olfactory and trigeminal nerves, the vasculature, the cerebrospinal fluid, and the lymphatic system. In addition to the properties of the therapeutic, deposition of the drug formulation within the nasal passages and composition of the formulation can influence the pathway a therapeutic follows into the CNS after intranasal administration. Experimental factors, such as head position, volume, and method of administration, and formulation parameters, such as pH, osmolarity, or inclusion of permeation enhancers or mucoadhesives, can influence formulation deposition within the nasal passages and pathways followed into the CNS. Significant research will be required to develop and improve current intranasal treatments and careful consideration should be given to the factors discussed in this review.
2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc. and the American Pharmacists Association