Hyaluronic acid: a unique topical vehicle for the localized delivery of drugs to the skin


*Corresponding author, Department of Pharmacy, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, 150 Stamford Street, London, SE1 9NH, UK. tel.+44 20 78484829; fax+44 20 78484777; E-mail: marc.brown@kcl.ac.uk


Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring polyanionic, polysaccharide that consists of N-acetyl-d-glucosamine and β-glucoronic acid. It is present in the intercellular matrix of most vertebrate connective tissues especially skin where it has a protective, structure stabilizing and shock-absorbing role. The unique viscoelastic nature of HA along with its biocompatibility and non-immunogenicity has led to its use in a number of clinical applications, which include: the supplementation of joint fluid in arthritis; as a surgical aid in eye surgery; and to facilitate the healing and regeneration of surgical wounds. More recently, HA has been investigated as a drug delivery agent for various routes of administration, including ophthalmic, nasal, pulmonary, parenteral and topical. In fact, regulatory approval in the USA, Canada and Europe was granted recently for 3% diclofenac in 2.5% HA gel, Solaraze®, for the topical treatment of actinic keratoses, which is the third most common skin complaint in the USA. The gel is well tolerated, safe and efficacious and provides an attractive, cost-effective alternative to cryoablation, curettage or dermabrasion, or treatment with 5-fluorouracil. The purpose of this review is to describe briefly the physical, chemical and biological properties of HA together with some details of its medical and pharmaceutical uses with emphasis on this more recent topical application.