On Monday, Novartis, a pharmaceutical giant, received U.S. approval for the Exelon Patch, which delivers a treatment for Alzheimer's disease through a skin patch, instead of through pill or capsule form. A press release stated that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had also approved the patch for treating mild to moderate Parkinson's disease dementia.
Patches for the delivery of medication aren't new, but more and more drug manufacturers seem to be studying this method of delivering drugs to the system, and that makes sense. When treating people with memory disorders, or those who may have trouble swallowing and/or understanding why you are trying to get them to swallow a pill, something as simple as placing a patch on the skin has obvious advantages.
My mom had an early hysterectomy and was on hormones for nearly half a century. She took pills for years. As she got older, and was experiencing some memory problems, she would often forget if she had taken her hormones. Well, she forgot until a hot flash came rushing in. I tried different medication organizers, but she still would forget her dose unless I was there to watch her take it. When my mom entered a nursing home, the staff switched her to a patch. The dose seemed to be more even and there wasn't a chance of forgetting.
Patches can be hard on the skin, so they must be moved around. The Exelon Patch, according to the information from Novartis, is applied to the "back, chest or upper arm." If the patch is put on a new area each time, then the skin has time to recover from the effects of the adhesive.
Novartis also mention that the patch "maintains steady drug levels in the bloodstream, improving tolerability and allowing a higher proportion of patients to receive therapeutic doses of medication, with potential improvements in efficacy."
My dad had a pain patch for several years, for the very reason that he could have a steadier dose going into his system over time. He also needed to have his patch placed in a different area each time it was changed, but even with his very thin, delicate skin, he didn't have discomfort. And, he didn't have to be convinced, hourly or daily, to swallow a pill, when, on some days, he found even swallowing his food incomprehensible.
I'm excited about this new development in medication for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. I've personally seen advantages in using patches for elders, and if this approach allows more patients to tolerate higher, more therapeutic doses of medication, it's one more important step forward. Patches avoid the intestinal system, as well as has having the advantages I've already mentioned, so I would assume there would be less chance of nausea and other digestive upsets, by using the patch.
With this new option, there are bound to be patients and caregivers cheering. Anything that makes life easier is welcome. And if, besides being more convenient, the patch delivers a more effective dose of medication, that's extremely good news.