To develop more effective compounds as enhancers, O-acylmenthol derivatives which were expected to be enzymatically hydrolyzed into nontoxic metabolites by esterases in the living epidermis were synthesized from l-menthol and pharmaceutical excipient acids (lactic acid, cinnamic acid, salicylic acid and oleic acid) in this study. Their promoting activity on the percutaneous absorption of five model drugs, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), isosorbide dinitrate (ISDN), lidocaine (LD), ketoprofen (KP), and indomethacin (IM), which were selected based on their lipophilicity represented by log K(O/W), were tested in vitro across full thickness rat skin with each of the evaluated drugs in saturated donor solution. 2-Isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexyl 2-hydroxypanoate (M-LA) provided the highest increase of accumulation of 5-FU (3.74-fold) and LD (4.19-fold) in the receptor phase while 2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexyl cinnamate (M-CA) was ineffective for most of the drugs; Both 2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexyl 2-hydroxybenzoate (M-SA) and (E)-2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexyl octadec-9-enoate (M-OA) had better promoting effects on the drugs with low water-solubility. The four O-acylmenthol enhancers produced parabolic relationship between the lipophilicity (log K(O/W)) of the model drugs (5-FU, ISDN, KP, IM) and their enhancement ratio of the permeation coefficient (ER(P)), indicating that the lipophilicity of the penetrants has significant effect on the permeation results, r = 0.989 (P=0.144) for M-LA, r = 0.965 (P = 0.216) for M-CA, r = 0.786 (P = 0.630) for M-SA, and r = 0.996 (P = 0.088) for M-OA.
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