The opioids buprenorphine hydrochloride (BUP) and naltrexone hydrochloride (NTX) show promise as a combination treatment for addiction, but no means of delivering the two compounds in one medicine currently exist. In this paper, we report sufficient input rates of both these drugs from one iontophoretic transdermal drug delivery system. Experiments were performed using dermatomed pig skin mounted in glass side-bi-side cells. BUP and NTX were iontophoretically delivered together from the anode using direct constant current from Ag/AgCl electrodes. The transdermal drug fluxes and the masses of drugs in both the stratum corneum and the underlying epidermis/dermis were measured. The apparent electroosmotic flow was quantified using a neutral marker (acetaminophen). The effects of donor composition (drug concentration/molar fraction and pH), current density and profile, and the choice of receptor solution were assessed. Iontophoresis dramatically increased the flux of both drugs compared to passive control values. Target fluxes (calculated from literature clearance values and required therapeutic plasma concentrations) were greatly exceeded for NTX and were met for BUP. The latter accumulated in the skin and suppressed electroosmotic flow, inhibiting both its own flux and that of NTX. NTX, in turn, negatively influenced the flux of BUP via co-ion competition. Lowering current density by increasing the delivery area resulted in increased electroosmotic flow but did not significantly affect current-normalized drug fluxes. Delivering the drugs from both electrodes and reversing the polarity for every 2 h did not increase the flux of either compound. In summary, during iontophoresis, BUP and NTX inhibited each other’s flux by two distinct mechanisms. While the more complex behavior of BUP complicates the optimization of this drug combination, iontophoresis nevertheless appears to be a feasible approach for the controlled codelivery of NTX and BUP through the skin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2808-2816
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2019


  • buprenorphine
  • iontophoresis
  • naltrexone
  • relapse prevention
  • transdermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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