Chapter 4. The Integumentary System
Clinical Note: Transdermal Drug Administration


Transdermal Drug Administration

Drugs in oils or other lipid-soluble carriers can penetrate the epidermis. The movement is slow, particularly through the layers of cell membranes in the stratum corneum, but once a drug reaches the underlying tissues, it will be absorbed into the circulation. A useful technique involves placing a sticky patch containing a drug over an area of thin skin. To overcome the relatively slow rate of diffusion, the patch must contain an extremely high concentration of the drug. This procedure, called transdermal drug administration, has the advantage that a single patch may work for several days, making daily pills unnecessary. Scopolamine, a drug that affects the nervous system, is administered transdermally to control the nausea associated with motion sickness. Transdermal nitroglycerin can be used to improve blood flow within the heart muscle and prevent a heart attack. Transdermal estrogen can be used to reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women. Transdermal nicotine can be used to control the craving for tobacco and make it easier to quit smoking.

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