Recent advances in the design and development of soft drugs

P. Buchwald, Nicholas Bodor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This paper summarizes recent developments in the field of soft drug development as collected and reviewed for the 9th Retrometabolism-Based Drug Design and Targeting Conference. Soft drugs are still often confused with prodrugs because they both require metabolic transformations; however, they are conceptual opposites: whereas, prodrugs are pharmacologically inactive and are converted by a predictable mechanism to the active drug, soft drugs are active therapeutic agents as such and are designed to undergo a predictable and controllable metabolic deactivation after exerting their desired therapeutic effect. Several rationally designed soft drug examples including clinically approved ones (e.g., clevidipine, esmolol, landiolol, loteprednol etabonate, and remifentanil) as well as others that have reached clinical investigations within different therapeutic areas (e.g., budiodarone, naronapride, remimazolam, tecarfarine) are briefly summarized. Anesthesiology, which requires a high degree of pharmacologic control during the surgical procedure to maintain the anesthetic state together with a quick return to responsiveness at the end of this procedure, is a particularly well-suited area for soft drug development. Several new initiatives (e.g., MOC-etomidate, AZD3043) are focused in this area; they are also briefly reviewed. Finally, just as there are many 'accidental' prodrugs, there are 'accidental' soft drugs too: i.e., therapeutics that were not intentionally designed to be soft drugs, but turned out to be essentially soft drugs. Some examples, such as articaine or methylphenidate, are briefly reviewed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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