The pretreatment effect of chemical skin penetration enhancers in transdermal drug delivery using iontophoresis

Eung Ho Choi, Seung Hun Lee, Sung Ku Ahn, Sang Min Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The transdermal drug delivery (TDD) system has largely been divided into physical, biochemical and chemical methods. Recently, combinations of these methods were introduced for more effective delivery with less side effects. We performed this study to identify the effectiveness and mechanism of TDD using the physical method, 'iontophoresis', plus the chemical method, 'pretreatment with chemical enhancer'. The action sites of chemical enhancers in the stratum corneum (SC) were observed by electron microscope. We also studied whether this combined method synergistically impaired the skin barrier. To confirm the synergistic effect on skin penetration by this combined method, we measured the blood glucose level after insulin iontophoresis following a chemical enhancer pretreatment in rabbits. The results were that (1) dilatation of the intercellular lipid layers of the SC and lacunae was prominent in pretreatment with chemical enhancers inducing high transepidermal water loss (TEWL); (2) the skin barrier impairment, with repeated treatments showing an increased TEWL and also epidermal proliferation, was increased with the chemical enhancers that showed a high TEWL immediately after treatment; (3) the combination of chemical enhancer pretreatment and iontophoresis showed no synergistic impairment of the skin barrier, and (4) the chemical enhancer pretreatment with greater impairment of the skin barrier could increase the delivery of insulin by iontophoresis. The results showed that a combination of chemical enhancer pretreatment and iontophoresis could deliver drugs more effectively than iontophoresis alone. Our proposed theory is that iontophoretic drug delivery may be easier through the dilated intercellular spaces of the SC which have a lower electrical impedance following the chemical enhancer pretreatment. Because the effect and the side effects in the combination are decided by the chemical enhancer rather than iontophoresis, the development of proper chemical enhancers is important in future plans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-335
Number of pages10
JournalSkin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Dermatology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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