In vivo bioavailability and metabolism of topical diclofenac lotion in human volunteers

Pharm Res. 1998 Oct;15(10):1589-95. doi: 10.1023/a:1011911302005.


Purpose: The primary objective of this study was to determine the rate and extent of transdermal absorption for systemic delivery of diclofenac from Pennsaid (Dimethaid Research, Inc.) topical lotion into the systemic circulation after the lotion was applied to human volunteers, in an open treatment, non-blinded, non-vehicle controlled study. In addition, the in vivo metabolism of this topical diclofenac lotion has also been studied.

Methods: Human volunteers were dosed with topical [14C]-diclofenac sodium 1.5% lotion on the knee for 24 h. Sequential time blood and urine samples were taken to determine pharmacokinetics, bioavailability and metabolism.

Results: Topical absorption was 6.6% of applied dose. Peak plasma 14C occurred at 30 h after dosing, and peak urinary 14C excretion was at 24-48 h. The urinary 14C excretion pattern exhibits more elimination towards 24 h and beyond, as opposed to early urinary 14C excretion. This suggests a continuous delivery of [14C]-diclofenac sodium from the lotion into and through skin which only ceased when the dosing site was washed. Skin surface residue at 24 h was 26 +/- 9.5% dose (remainder assumed lost to clothing and bedding). Extraction of metabolites from urine amounted to 7.4-22.7% in untreated urine, suggesting substantial diclofenac metabolism to more water soluble metabolites, probably conjugates, which could not be extracted by the method employed. Two Dimensional TLC analysis of untreated urine showed minimal or no diclofenac, again emphasizing the extensive in vivo metabolism of this drug. Treatment of the same urine samples with the enzymes sulfatase and beta-glucuronidase showed a substantial increase in the extractable material. Three spots were consistently present in each sample run, namely diclofenac, 3'hydroxy diclofenac and an intermediate polar metabolite (probably a hydroxylated metabolite). Therefore, there was significant sulfation and glucuronidation of both diclofenac and numerous hydroxy metabolites of diclofenac, but many of the metabolites/conjugates remain unidentified. CONCLUSIONS; There was a continuous delivery of diclofenac sodium from the lotion into and through the skin, which ceased after the dosing site was washed. The majority of the material excreted in the urine were conjugates of hydroxylated metabolites, and not the parent chemical, although further identification is required.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Biological Availability
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Diclofenac / administration & dosage
  • Diclofenac / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Glucuronidase / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Sulfatases / pharmacology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Diclofenac
  • Sulfatases
  • Glucuronidase