Stability of 5-aminolevulinic acid in novel non-aqueous gel and patch-type systems intended for topical application.

Paul McCarron, Ryan Donnelly, Gavin Andrews, David Woolfson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) stability within topical formulations intended for photodynamic therapy (PDT) is poor due to dimerisation to pyrazine-2,5-dipropionic acid (PY). Most strategies to improve stability use low pH vehicles, which can cause cutaneous irritancy. To overcome this problem, a novel approach is investigated that uses a non-aqueous vehicle to retard proton-induced charge separation across the 4-carbonyl group on ALA and lessen nucleophilic attack that leads to condensation dimerisation. Bioadhesive anhydrous vehicles based on methylvinylether-maleic anhydride copolymer patches and poly(ethyleneglycol) or glycerol thickened poly(acrylic acid) gels were formulated. ALA stability fell below pharmaceutically acceptable levels after 6 months, with bioadhesive patches stored at 5°C demonstrating the best stability by maintaining 86.2% of their original loading. Glycerol-based gels maintained 40.2% in similar conditions. However, ALA loss did not correspond to expected increases in PY, indicating the presence of another degradative process that prevented dimerisation. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis was inconclusive in respect of the mechanism observed in the patch system, but showed clearly that an esterification reaction involving ALA and both glycerol and poly(ethyleneglycol) was occurring. This was especially marked in the glycerol gels, where only 2.21% of the total expected PY was detected after 204 days at 5°C. Non-specific esterase hydrolysis demonstrated that ALA was recoverable from the gel systems, further supporting esterified binding within the gel matrices. It is conceivable that skin esterases could duplicate this finding upon topical application of the gel and convert these derivatives back to ALA in situ, provided skin penetration is not affected adversely.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1756-1771
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Pharmacology


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