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March 6, 1987

On the Horizon: A Pharmacopeia of Targeted Drugs?

JAMA. 1987;257(9):1144-1145. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390090014003

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IN A 1909 address, microbiologist Paul Ehrlich argued that "we must learn to aim and to aim in a chemical sense." Targeted drug delivery, an embodiment of his concept, is a phrase much on the lips of chemists, cell biologists, and pharmacologists these days. It refers to the pharmacologic version of registered mail: delivering therapeutic agents precisely and exclusively to their site of action.

It is unlikely that physicians will be able to send their patients to the corner pharmacy for a targeted drug compound in the near future, because such agents must surmount numerous biologic and technical barriers to reach the market.

Drug/carrier conjugates will have to be designed to elude the body's scavengers and traverse one or more barriers in the gastrointestinal tract, microvasculature, tissues, cell membranes, and intracellular organelles to reach their target unscathed and release their contents. Furthermore, any design has to be amenable to manufacture