Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Audra L. Stinchcomb

Second Advisor

Dr. Peter J. Wedlund


Microneedle (MN) enhanced drug delivery is a safe, effective and efficient enhancement method for delivery of drug molecules across the skin. The “poke (press) and patch” approach employs solid stainless steel MN to permeablize the skin prior to application of a regular drug patch over the treated area. It has been previously shown that MN can be used to deliver naltrexone (NTX) at a rate that provides plasma concentrations in the lower end of the therapeutic range in humans. The drug delivery potential of this technique is, however, limited by the re-sealing of the micropores in a 48-72h timeframe. The goal of the current research was to optimize the formulation for a 7 day MN enhanced delivery system for NTX either by adding a second active pharmacological moiety or by optimizing formulation characteristics alone. Three different formulation strategies were explored: formulation pH optimization with NTX; a codrug approach with NTX and a nonspecific cyclooxygenase inhibitor, diclofenac (DIC); and a topical/transdermal approach with NTX and an enzyme inhibitor of the cholesterol synthesis pathway, fluvastatin (FLU). The results indicated that formulation pH cannot be used to extend micropore lifetime, although formulation optimization leads to enhanced transport and thus drug delivery across MN treated skin. The codrug approach was successful in extending the micropore lifetime and further screening of codrug structures and formulation optimization helped in selection of a codrug candidate suitable for evaluation in animal pharmacokinetic studies. Local treatment with FLU helped to keep the micropores open and enabled delivery of NTX for an extended period. The pores re-sealed on removal of treatment within a 30-45 minute timeframe, indicating that infection/irritation should not be a major issue, as in the case of other topical chemical enhancers. Thus, overall it can be concluded that different formulation strategies can be utilized to extend micropore lifetime and enhance delivery of drug molecules across the skin.