Bone defects of critical size after compound fractures, infections, or tumor resections are a challenge in treatment. Particularly, this applies to bone defects in patients with impaired bone healing due to frequently occurring metabolic diseases (above all diabetes mellitus and osteoporosis), chronic inflammation, and cancer. Adjuvant therapeutic agents such as recombinant growth factors, lipid mediators, antibiotics, antiphlogistics, and proangiogenics as well as other promising anti-resorptive and anabolic molecules contribute to improving bone healing in these disorders, especially when they are released in a targeted and controlled manner during crucial bone healing phases. In this regard, the development of smart biocompatible and biostable polymers such as implant coatings, scaffolds, or particle-based materials for drug release is crucial. Innovative chemical, physico- and biochemical approaches for controlled tailor-made degradation or the stimulus-responsive release of substances from these materials, and more, are advantageous. In this review, we discuss current developments, progress, but also pitfalls and setbacks of such approaches in supporting or controlling bone healing. The focus is on the critical evaluation of recent preclinical studies investigating different carrier systems, dual- or co-delivery systems as well as triggered- or targeted delivery systems for release of a panoply of drugs.
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