Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Peter A. Crooks


The present study was divided between two different drug delivery goals, each involving naltrexone (NTX) or its active metabolite, 6-β-naltrexol (NTXOL). First, amino acid esters of NTX and NTXOL were prepared in order to test their candidacy for microneedle-enhanced transdermal delivery. Second, a 3-O-(-)-cytisine-naltrexone (CYT-NTX) codrug was prepared for screening as a potential oral delivery form of NTX and (-)-cytisine (CYT). The amino acid prodrugs were intended for the treatment of alcohol abuse, while the codrug was designed as a single agent for the treatment of alcoholism and tobacco-dependency co-morbidities. One hypothesis of this work was that prodrugs of NTX or NTXOL can be designed that possess superior skin transport properties through microneedle-treated skin compared to parent NTX or NTXOL. Nine amino acid ester prodrugs were prepared, and only three 6-O amino acid ester prodrugs of NTXOL were stable enough at skin pH (pH 5.0) to move forward to studies in 50% human plasma. 6-O-β-Ala-NTXOL, the lead compound, exhibited the most rapid bioconversion to NTXOL in human plasma (t1/2 = 2.2 ± 0.1 h); however, this in vitro stability value indicates that the prodrug may require hepatic enzyme-mediated hydrolysis for sufficiently rapid bioconversion to NTXOL in vivo. A second hypothesis of this work was that a CYT-NTX codrug could be designed with appropriate stability characteristics for oral delivery. CYT-NTX was found to be stable over the time course of 24 h in buffer systems of pH 1.5, 5.0, 7.4 and 9.0, and in 80% rat plasma, 80% human plasma, simulated gastric fluid and simulated intestinal fluid. Six (3 rats/group) Sprague-Dawley male rats were dosed i.v. with 1 mg/kg CYT-NTX codrug, or 10 mg/kg, p.o. Oral administration of a 10 mg/kg dose of CYT-NTX codrug resulted in rapid absorption and distribution (5 min) of CYT-NTX codrug, and NTX was released from codrug with a peak plasma concentration of 6.8 ± 0.9 nmol/L reached within 65 minutes. Plasma CYT was not detected; however, NTX delivery was achieved with a fraction absorbed value of 13%. Thus, CYT-NTX may hold promise as a potential oral codrug for further optimization and development.