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J Pharm Sci. 1994 Dec;83(12):1723-8.

Transdermal delivery of narcotic analgesics: comparative metabolism and permeability of human cadaver skin and hairless mouse skin.

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  • 1College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-1065.


The permeation of hairless mouse skin and human cadaver skin by narcotic analgesics was investigated to determine the interspecies variation. Permeability coefficients of morphine, fentanyl, and sufentanil across full-thickness hairless mouse skin were 1 order of magnitude higher than those found for human epidermis. The permeability coefficient of morphine for stripped hairless mouse skin was 500-fold higher than that for intact skin, showing the stratum corneum to be the principal barrier to its penetration. The permeability coefficient of fentanyl for stripped hairless mouse skin was also raised, but stripping caused an inappreciable increase in the permeation rate of sufentanil. The thick dermis of excised mouse skin obviously offered a significant resistance to the permeation of these lipophilic compounds. In comparison, the permeability coefficients of fentanyl and sufentanil through stripped cadaver epidermis (n > or = 25) were 67 and 37 higher than for intact human epidermis, respectively. The skin metabolism of the narcotics was investigated. No significant metabolic degradation of morphine, fentnayl, and sufentanil was observed in either fresh human cadaver skin or hairless mouse skin homogenates in the presence of NADPH cofactor, suggesting a low monooxygenase enzyme presence in skin. Moreover, no measurable glucuronidation of morphine took place in human skin or hairless mouse skin. Both processes proceeded rapidly in liver homogenates (mouse) under identical circumstances. It thus appears that these drugs pass through in intact form.

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