- To develop and demonstrate a rapid and simple colorimetric film assay for evaluating lipid interactions of pharmaceutical compounds and gel formulations. The colorimetric assay comprises glass-supported films of phospholipids and polydiacetylene, which undergo visible and quantifiable blue-red transformations induced by interactions with amphiphilic molecules applied in very small volumes on the film surface. The color transitions are recorded by scanning of the films, and quantified through a simple image analysis algorithm. We show that pharmaceutical molecules and gel formulations induce blue-red transformations after short incubation with the lipid/polydiacetylene (PDA) films. Colorimetric dose-response curves exhibit dependence upon the lipid affinity and extent of membrane binding of the pharmaceutical compounds examined. The colorimetric lipid/PDA film assay was employed for distinguishing the contributions of individual molecular components within gel formulations. The colorimetric data yield insight into the degree of lipid binding of the molecules tested. The film assay is particularly advantageous for analysis of semi-solid (gel or lotion) formulations, elucidating the lipid interaction characteristics of specific molecular components within the mixtures. The new colorimetric film assay constitutes a generic, rapid, and easily applicable platform for predicting and screening interactions of pharmaceutical compounds and complex formulations with lipid barriers.