Understanding the Role of Drug Delivery Systems in Medicine
The way in which a drug enters the body can have a vast effect on the efficacy of a drug, impacting where it is released, how much can be absorbed, and how long it remains in circulation. Innovations in methods of drug delivery have led many companies to invest nearly as much effort into developing the drug delivery device or system as they have into developing the drugs themselves. So, what are drug delivery devices and how do they have such an impact on a drug’s viability?
What are Drug Delivery Devices and Systems?
Drug delivery systems are the systems used to administer a therapeutic agent or pharmaceutical compound into the body, while drug delivery devices are defined as the physical agents included in those systems. These devices can help control the location, rate, and time of release of a medication so that it remains effective for as long as possible while not causing unwanted harm. The utilization of novel drug delivery devices has been instrumental in enhancing the passage of drugs through the physiological barriers of the body and extending their effectiveness.
What are the Different Drug Administration Methods?
When deciding upon the best drug delivery method, the first step is often to evaluate administration and absorption requirements and choose a delivery method which best meets those needs. There are two main routes of medication administration: enteral and parenteral. Enteral refers to delivery through the gastrointestinal tract while parenteral medications enter the body by some means other than oral intake, typically through the bloodstream. Oral administration is the most common eternal route for medication delivery, as it is convenient and often cost-effective. However, this method presents challenges as much of the drug is lost within the barriers of the GI tract, before reaching the bloodstream. Intravenous therapy is one of the most attractive methods of delivery, and the most commonly used parenteral route of administration, since it is able to bypass most physiological barriers and go straight into the bloodstream. This is not always an option for administration as intravenous methods often can only be performed by licensed healthcare providers. Other options for medication delivery include topical, transdermal, inhaled, and implanted. There are many strategies for delivering a drug into the body, but none are perfect and it’s important to choose the method best suited to the needs of the patient or characteristics of the drug.
Challenges of Drug Delivery
The development of drug delivery devices has revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry, helping drugs to work more effectively, for a longer duration, and at the targeted area. Despite this there is still a lot of progress to be made as more challenges arise with evolving technology. One major barrier is the body’s ability to build up resistance when presented with a similar stimulus repeatedly. This causes the circulation time within the body to drop significantly after multiple uses of the same drug or method. Another challenge is the variability of metabolism among different individuals. Most drug delivery systems are designed to work the same in most of the general patient population, when in reality every individual handles drugs differently depending on a variety of evident and unknown factors. No perfect method of drug delivery has been established yet and there are many breakthroughs still to come.
The Future of Drug Delivery Systems
The future of drug delivery systems lies in perfecting the ability to produce batches of drug delivery devices which warrant similar results at a larger scale. There are a plethora of different drug delivery methods which aid in both targeting and controlling the release of drugs. Unfortunately, many of these devices are held back from commercialization by an inability to be produced at a large scale with consistent and reliable results. Targeted therapeutic delivery is also an area where there is ongoing research and advancement, as administering drugs locally instead of systemically can help decrease side effects while maximizing the impact of a treatment. Another recent development within the drug delivery field is the rise of active targeting. Active targeting is the utilization of ligands to target the desired location for drug release, based on a component unique from the rest of the body. The addition of the ligand locates and binds to this unique biological component, ensuring that the dose is released only in the target area. The future of these systems holds a lot of potential, but there is still work to be done and discoveries to be made within the field of drug delivery.
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