- The objective of this study was to evaluate the transdermal delivery potential of diclofenac-containing microemulsion system in vivo and in vitro. It was found that the transdermal administration of the microemulsion to rats resulted in 8-fold higher drug plasma levels than those obtained after application of Voltaren Emulgel. After s.c. administration (3.5 mg/kg), the plasma levels of diclofenac reached a peak of 0.94 μg/ml at t = 1 h and decreased rapidly to 0.19 μg/ml at t = 6 h, while transdermal administration of the drug in microemulsion maintained constant levels of 0.7–0.9 μg/ml for at least 8 h. The transdermal fluxes of diclofenac were measured in vitro using skin excised from different animal species. In three rodent species, penetration fluxes of 53.35 ± 8.19 (furry mouse), 31.70 ± 3.83 (hairless mouse), 31.66 ± 4.45 (rat), and 22.89 ± 6.23 μg/cm 2 /h (hairless guinea pig) were obtained following the application of the microemulsion. These fluxes were significantly higher than those obtained by application of the drug in aqueous solution. In contrast to these results, a ‘flip-flop’ phenomenon was observed when frozen porcine skin (but not fresh skin) was significantly more permeable to diclofenac-in-water than to the drug-in-microemulsion. In fact, the drug penetration from the microemulsion was not affected by the skin storage conditions, but it was increased when an aqueous solution was applied. However, this unusual phenomenon observed in non-freshly used porcine skin places a question mark on its relevancy for in vitro penetration studies involving aqueous vehicle systems.