Polymeric gels for intravaginal drug delivery
Intravaginal drug delivery can elicit a local effect, or deliver drugs systemically without hepatic first pass metabolism. There are a number of emerging areas in intravaginal drug delivery, but the vagina is a challenging route of administration, due to the clearance mechanisms present which result in poor retention of dosage forms, and the potential for irritation and other adverse reactions. Gel formulations are desirable due to the ease of application, spreading and that they cause little to no discomfort to the patient. However, these dosage forms, in particular, are poorly retained and traditional gels typically have little control over drug release rates. This has led to a large number of studies on improving the retention of vaginal gels and modulating the controlled release of drugs from the gel matrix. This review outlines the anatomy and physiology of the vagina, focussing on areas relevant to drug delivery. Medical applications of vaginally administered medicines is then discussed, followed by an overview of polymeric gels in intravaginal drug delivery. The sensorial properties of intravaginal gels, and how these relate to user compliance are also summarised. Finally, some important barriers to marketing approval are described.