Prodrugs are chemically modified derivatives introduced in therapy due to their advantageous physico-chemical properties (greater stability, improved solubility, increased permeability), used in inactive form. Biological effect is exerted by the active derivatives formed in organism through chemical transformation (biotransformation). Currently, 10% of pharmaceutical products are used as prodrugs, nearly half of them being converted to active form by hydrolysis, mainly by ester hydrolysis. The use of prodrugs aims to improve the bioavailability of compounds in order to resolve some unfavorable characteristics and to reduce first-pass metabolism. Other objectives are to increase drug absorption, to extend duration of action or to achieve a better tissue/organ selective transport in case of non-oral drug delivery forms. Prodrugs can be characterized by chemical structure, activation mechanism or through the presence of certain functional groups suitable for their preparation. Currently we distinguish in therapy traditional prodrugs prepared by chemical derivatisation, bioprecursors and targeted delivery systems. The present article is a review regarding the introduction and applications of prodrug design in various areas of drug development.
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