Objectives The aim of this review is to highlight relevant considerations when implementing a rational strategy for the development of lipid and surfactant based drug delivery system and to discuss shortcomings and challenges to the current classification of these delivery systems. We also aim to offer suggestions for an improved classification system that will accommodate lipid based formulations that are not currently accommodated in the lipid formulation classification system. Key findings When categorising lipid and surfactant based drug delivery systems, the current Lipid Formulations Classifications System is a useful tool. However, it does not apply to all marketed lipid and surfactant systems or those reported in research papers. A more profound understanding of the functionalities of lipids and surfactants and their role in emulsion formation will enable a rational development strategy and will create the basis for a revised classification system encompassing all employed lipid and surfactant drug delivery systems. Summary The ever-increasing number of poorly soluble compounds in drug discovery and development calls for the serious need for effective and affordable drug delivery strategies that will enhance bioavailability and decrease variability. Lipid and surfactant based drug delivery systems offer these advantages; however, the development of these systems requires proper understanding of the physicochemical nature of the compound as well as the lipid excipients and gastrointestinal digestion. One major challenge of lipid excipients and delivery systems is the varying range of compounds they contain. This has contributed to the challenge of proper characterisation and evaluation of these delivery systems, their stability, classification and regulatory issues, which consequently have affected the number of these formulations that eventually reach the market. Suggestions as to proper classification of these delivery systems based on their main lipid component and recommended use are put forward. The prospect of these delivery systems looks promising. © 2010 Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
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