Effect of Lipophilicity and Drug Ionization on Permeation Across Porcine Sublingual Mucosa

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Sublingual route is one of the oldest alternative routes studied for the administration of drugs. However, the effect of physical-chemical properties on drug permeation via this route has not been systemically investigated. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of two key physicochemical properties, lipophilicity and ionization, on the transport of drugs across porcine sublingual mucosa. A series of β-blockers were used to study the effect of lipophilicity on drug permeation across the sublingual mucosa, while nimesulide (pKa 6.5) was used as a model drug to study the effect of degree of ionization on sublingual mucosa permeation of ionized and unionized species. Permeation of β-blockers increased linearly with an increase in the lipophilicity for the range of compounds studied. The permeability of nimesulide across sublingual mucosa decreased with an increase of pH. The flux of ionized and unionized forms of nimesulide was determined to delineate the contribution of ionized and unionized species to the total flux. At low pH, the apparent flux was primarily contributed by unionized species; however, when the pH is increased beyond its pKa, the primary contributor to the apparent flux, nimesulide, is ionized species. The contribution of each species to the apparent flux was shown to be determined by the thermodynamic activity of ionized or unionized species. This study identified the roles of lipophilicity and thermodynamic activity in drug permeation across the sublingual mucosa. The findings can help guide the design of sublingual drug delivery systems with optimal pH and solubility.



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