Review of the pharmaceutical properties and clinical effects of the topical NSAID formulation, diclofenac epolamine
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BACKGROUND: Topical formulations of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), in particular diclofenac (DI), have become popular for treating various acute and chronic painful inflammatory conditions. OBJECTIVE: To perform a literature review of (1) the use of topical NSAIDs; (2) the pharmaceutical, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of a medicated plaster (patch) containing diclofenac epolamine (DI-EP, Flector Tissugel, Flector patch) compared with other formulations of topical NSAIDs; and (3) evaluation of the clinical findings from studies with this novel DI-EP patch. OUTCOMES: (1) Pharmacokinetic studies involved determination of DI from DI-EP and separately epolamine (EP) and the epoxide metabolite (N-oxide-EP) in laboratory animals and humans; the latter being the major metabolite in humans. About 2% of DI is absorbed by the skin in humans and is excreted in the urine. Maximum plasma concentrations of 17.4 ng/mL DI are reached at 5.4 hours (approximate steady state conditions); the plasma elimination half-time (t(1/2)) being 26.4 hours. Low systemic levels of DI and EP are produced from DI-EP. Pronounced accumulation of DI occurs in the muscle layers and in synovial fluids of arthritic patients; (2) No significant toxicity occurs from EP nor N-oxide-EP, while that of oral DI-EP was similar to that from DI; and (3) In acute musculoskeletal conditions (sprains, tendonitis and sports injuries) and osteoarthritis DI-EP patches control pain and signs of joint or physical injury compared with placebo controls by 3-5 days with almost complete pain relief at 14 days. DI-EP was shown to have equivalent therapeutic effect to another DI diethylammonium gel formulation (Voltaren Emulgel). There were no reports of serious adverse events in the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, kidneys or liver from DI-EP. Mild GI symptoms and skin reactions occur in 2 and 10% of patients, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The patch delivery of DI in DI-EP affords controlled delivery of the active drug in contrast to that from application of gels or ointments of NSAIDs.