The new patch is transparent and adheres well to skin, even when the drug load reaches levels as high as 30% of the patch weight.
Image credit: Warwick University
The patch was developed by researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK, led by research chemist Prof. David Haddleton.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recently strengthened the warning labels that accompany nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
New labels warn that such drugs increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, and these events happen without warning, potentially causing death. Furthermore, such risks are higher for people who take NSAIDs for a long time.
Ibuprofen can also cause ulcers, bleeding or holes in the stomach or intestine.
With these risks in mind, finding an alternative way to relieve pain without the risks is a worthwhile endeavor. Though there are commercial patches on the market designed to soothe pain, this is the first patch that delivers ibuprofen through the skin.
"Many commercial patches surprisingly don't contain any pain relief agents at all," says Prof. Haddleton, "they simply soothe the body by a warming effect."
Patch drug load 5-10 times that of current patches
Working with a Warwick spinout company called Medherant, the researchers were able to put significant amounts of ibuprofen into a polymer matrix that adheres the patch to the patient's skin, enabling the drug to be delivered at a steady rate over a 12-hour period.
The researchers say their patch paves the way for other novel long-acting pain relief products that can be used to treat common conditions - such as back pain, neuralgia and arthritis - without taking potentially damaging oral doses of the drug.
Prof. Haddleton explains that, for the first time, they can "produce patches that contain effective doses of active ingredients such as ibuprofen for which no patches currently exist."
He adds that they are able to "improve the drug loading and stickiness of patches containing other active ingredients to improve patient comfort and outcome."
The team notes that the drug load made possible by their new technology is 5-10 times that of current medical patches and gels. Furthermore, because the patch adheres well to skin, it stays put even when the drug load reaches levels as high as 30% of the weight or volume of the patch.
Other potential uses for the patch
There are currently a number of ibuprofen gels available, but the researchers say it is difficult to control dosage with these gels, and they are not convenient to apply.
"There are only a limited number of existing polymers that have the right characteristics to be used for this type of transdermal patches - that will stick to the skin and not leave residues when being easily removed," says Prof. Haddleton, who adds:
"Our success in developing this breakthrough patch design isn't limited to ibuprofen; we have also had great results testing the patch with methyl salicylate (used in liniments, gels and some leading commercial patches).
We believe that many other over-the-counter and prescription drugs can exploit our technology, and we are seeking opportunities to test a much wider range of drugs and treatments within our patch."
Medherant CEO Nigel Davis says they anticipate their new patch will be on the market in around 2 years. He adds that they "can see considerable opportunities in working with pharmaceutical companies to develop innovative products using our next-generation transdermal drug-delivery platform."
Despite the risks associated with long-term use of NSAIDs, Medical News Today recently reported on a study that suggested use of the drugs could reduce risk of colorectal cancer.