Engineering Targeted In Vivo Drug Delivery. I. The Physiological and Physicochemical Principles Governing Opportunities and Limitations

C. Anthony Hunt, Roderick D. MacGregor, Ronald A. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


A physiologically based model is presented to aid prediction of the pharmacological benefits to be derived from the administration of a drug as a targeted drug–carrier combination. An improvement in the therapeutic index and an increase in the therapeutic availability are the primary benefits sought. A measure of the former is obtained from the value of the drug targeting index, a newly derived parameter. Both the drug targeting index and the therapeutic availability are directly calculable. The minimum information needed for approximating both parameters is the candidate drug's total-body clearance and some knowledge of the target site's anatomy and blood flow. Drugs with high total-body clearance values that are known to act at target tissues having effective blood flows that are small relative to the blood flow to the normal eliminating organs will benefit most from combination with an efficient, targeted carrier. Direct elimination of the drug at the target site or at the tissue where toxicity originates dramatically improves the drug targeting index value. The fraction of drug actually released from the carrier at both target and nontarget sites can radically affect index values. In some cases a 1% change in the fraction of the dose delivered to the target can result in a 50% change in the drug targeting index value. It is argued that most drugs already developed have a low potential to benefit from combination with a drug carrier. The approach allows one to distinguish clearly those drugs that can benefit from combination with targeted in vivo drug carriers from those drugs that cannot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalPharmaceutical Research: An Official Journal of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1986


  • drug delivery, targeted
  • pharmacodynamics
  • pharmacokinetics
  • prodrugs


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