Send to

Choose Destination
AAPS J. 2012 Mar;14(1):10-8. doi: 10.1208/s12248-011-9307-4. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Absorption enhancers: applications and advances.

Author information

QPS, LLC, Newark, Delaware 19702, USA.


Absorption enhancers are functional excipients included in formulations to improve the absorption of a pharmacologically active drug. The term absorption enhancer usually refers to an agent whose function is to increase absorption by enhancing membrane permeation, rather than increasing solubility, so such agents are sometimes more specifically termed permeation enhancers. Absorption enhancers have been investigated for at least two decades, particularly in efforts to develop non-injection formulations for peptides, proteins, and other pharmacologically active compounds that have poor membrane permeability. While at least one product utilizing an absorption enhancer for transdermal use has reached the market, quite a few more appear to be at the threshold of becoming products, and these include oral and transmucosal applications. This paper will review some of the most advanced absorption enhancers currently in development and the formulation technologies employed that have led to their success. In addition, a more basic review of the barriers to absorption and the mechanisms by which those barriers can be surmounted is presented. Factors influencing the success of absorption-enhancing formulations are discussed. If ultimately successful, the products now in development should offer non-injection alternatives for several peptide or protein drugs currently only administered by injection. The introduction of new absorption enhancers as accepted pharmaceutical excipients, and the development of formulation technologies that afford the greatest benefit/risk ratio for their use, may create opportunities to apply these enabling technologies more broadly to existing drugs with non-optimal delivery properties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center