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What are the Different Types of Medication Delivery Systems?

    There are many different ways a medication can be administered. These categories are called “delivery systems,” and while the average person may not think much about the process, medical professionals put a lot of thought and work into the best ways for our bodies to absorb the medication we need to survive.

    For those looking to understand these methods a bit more, here is an overview of the eight main methods of distribution of medication.


    When we think of a medical delivery system, most of us would picture swallowing a pill or a liquid medication. This is considered oral distribution, and it’s the method most consumers prefer because of how simple it is for most adults and children. When it comes to medication like birth control, antibiotics, or painkillers, oral medication is often where we turn first. 

    Oral medication comes in a variety of options depending on the way it needs to be absorbed into your body. For example, you can find many medications in the form of swallowable pills, chewable tabs, flavored liquids, and dissolvable tablets. Oral tablets and capsules also come in many forms – some, such as Diffucaps, offer a controlled release of medication in a variety of forms, while others fully release into your body at one time. It’s important to follow the instructions given to you by your doctor before taking the drug. 

    A similar type of delivery system is sublingual, which is not considered oral. Instead of swallowing, the user places the medication under the tongue for absorption. The buccal medication delivery system, which is similar to sublingual, is for medications that can be absorbed by placing them between the cheek and the gums.


    Another type of delivery system is pulmonary, which means the medication is absorbed through your lungs. An example of this type would be an inhaler, which quickly treats any lung issues by moving from your mouth through your airwaves. This type of system is rarely used for anything other than lung issues, but is extremely effective and acts swiftly. A great quality of a pulmonary delivery system is that you don’t have to concern yourself with any dietary conflicts, such as waiting to use until you have a full stomach.


    Transdermal delivery systems are those where the medication is absorbed through your skin. Some drugs that fall under this category are nicotine patches for quitting smoking, estrogen and testosterone drugs, and some types of birth control. A downside to transdermal medications is that they may cause skin issues where the drug was administered, such as a rash or flaking skin. 


    Another type that most individuals are familiar with is injectable medication. This delivery system is how we distribute things like vaccines, as well as some forms of antidepressants, birth control, and morphine. This is a great way to distribute medication to those who are unable to swallow, breathe, etc, such as an unconscious patient. Injectable medications can take a variety of routes depending on what type of drug they are – subcutaneous (which go under the skin), intramuscular (muscle), intravenous (vein), and intrathecal (spinal cord).

    Ocular and Otic

    Ocular medications are delivered to the body through the eye. A common example of this would be eye drops for allergies, or treatment for pink eye. This type of system is usually used for eye-related diseases and ailments and not for issues elsewhere in the body. Similarly, otic medications are distributed via ear canal and treat issues within the ear, such drops that provide relief for ear infections.


    While many find the thought of vaginal or anal medicine delivery offputting, it can be extremely effective for treating certain ailments. While many are familiar with suppositories for things like a yeast infection or hemorrhoids, they’re also available for drugs that help with anxiety, allergies, and nausea. Hemorrhoid cream is considered a local anesthetic. It works on nerves in the skin to block or reduce the feeling of pain and itching.