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Drug Delivery Technologies – An Overview

written by: Ricky•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 12/11/2008

What do you do when you get sick or your favourite pet suffers from some ailment? Well we often use some sort of a medicine or drug which is prescribed by a qualified and authorized medical person. This act of administering a drug is what drug delivery technologies are all about.

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    To put it across in the most simple of words, drug delivery is the method of delivering drugs inside your body, or in the body of any living being for that matter be it a cat, dog or a rabbit. You may consider that this is a very simple concept and we do not need to do anything but pop a pill in our mouth and swallow it with a glass of water. “There is hardly any technology in that” might be your response to this definition but I suggest that you read on before you consider these drug delivery technologies as a piece of c… (You will understand why I left the word c… incomplete towards the end of this article)

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    So What about Drug Delivery?

    Well there is so much to discuss about drug delivery technologies that I cannot finish it in one article but we will study it over a series of articles. Since you must have noticed the word “technologies”, you surely must have understood that there is not one but many technologies which are used to administer drugs. But before going into the details of each of these technologies, let us first broadly understand their classification and categorization.

    On the whole drug delivery technologies may be divided into a few major categories which are as follows

    • Sustained Release Technology
    • Targeted Delivery Technology
    • Enhanced Absorption Technology
    • Implantable Technology
    • Transdermal Technology

    The above mentioned classification is further subdivided into several categories. As mentioned earlier we will take the study of each one of these in separate articles as so much information cannot be loaded in one go.

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    Some Related Terminology

    Familiarize yourself with some of these concepts which would aid your understanding of the former.

    Bioavailability – whatever amount of drug is supplied to your body through any of the above means, the whole of it does not actually reach the intended target but a portion of it gets lost on its way. This can be compared crudely to energy conversion wherein some energy is always lost in form of friction, heat etc whenever one form of energy is converted into other. This leads us to the definition of the term bioavailability which means the amount of drug which actually reaches the blood stream vis-à-vis the actual amount supplied at the entry point, whatever method of administration is used.

    Dose Efficacy – a drug has to be of the right amount/quantity in order for it to perform its function. This quantity is referred to as the dose efficacy.

    Toxicity – usually most drug can cause harm to the body if taken in excess. The limit of the drug where the harmful effects start to kick in is known as the toxicity.

    Therapeutic Index – if we look at the previous two terms, we will notice a contradiction in that a certain amount of drug is needed to cure, while above a limit it causes harm. This leads us to another definition which is the relative comparison of drug required for treatment vis-à-vis its toxicity and it is known as the therapeutic index. Just imagine how risky it would be if the amount of drug required is very near to its toxicity level but that’s a matter of separate discussion

    Last but not least, if you remember the c... of the intro section it could be 'cake' or 'crap'. I am sure you have figured by now that its the former and not the latter

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    Suggested Readings

    If you want to know more about health care technology just take a look at the following interesting articles

    Is health care cost rising because of new medical technology?

    Can EMR save U.S. healthcare?

    Why are U.S. doctors slow to adopt EMR?

    IT and Healthcare