Toxicologic testing of inhaled pharmaceutical aerosols

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1993;23(4):343-69. doi: 10.3109/10408449309104076.


This paper reviews technical issues related to the toxicologic testing of inhaled pharmaceuticals. Although there are commonalities between approaches to general and inhalation toxicity testing, there also are specific challenges in the toxicity testing of inhaled pharmaceuticals. A major issue is that of dose; inhaled dose is more difficult to determine than intravenous or oral doses. Also, it is harder to relate dose in laboratory animals to that in man for inhalation exposure than for other routes of administration. Additionally, in the case of inhaled pharmaceuticals, people generally inhale through the mouth, whereas most laboratory animals inhale primarily through the nose. This presents significant challenges in exposure methodology and technology that often need innovative approaches involving alteration to particle size of the agent or dosing procedure. Because the respiratory tract is the site of deposition, local respiratory toxicity and possible damage to lung cells need to be assessed. Systemic toxicity also needs to be evaluated and may be an issue in some cases. Special studies on pulmonary function, mucociliary clearance, or immune response may be needed, depending on the nature of the inhaled pharmaceutical. This review explores the main issues involved in toxicity testing of inhaled pharmaceuticals, the approaches that have been used, and the current and future challenges.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aerosols / pharmacokinetics
  • Aerosols / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Toxicology / methods*


  • Aerosols