Ibuprofen is the go-to medicine for many people looking to relieve pain. For some of these people, however, swallowing the little orange pills is a dreaded task. Working in collaboration with Medherant, a bioadhesives company, researchers from the University of Warwick (UW) sought to remedy this issue. So they created an ibuprofen-releasing patch capable of delivering a concentrated dose directly through the skin.
“Many commercial patches surprisingly don’t contain any pain relief agents at all, they simply soothe the body by a warming effect,” UW research chemist Professor David Haddleton said in a press release. “Our technology now means that we can for the first time produce patches that contain effective doses of active ingredients, such as ibuprofen, for which no patches currently exist. Also, we can improve the drug loading and stickiness of patches containing other active ingredients to improve patient comfort and outcome.”
Unlike traditional oral ibuprofen pills that dissolve in the stomach and immediately get to work, the patch releases a steady stream of pain relief over the course of 12 hours. The researchers believe this will open up a whole realm of possibilities for over-the-counter analgesic products that will help soothe back pain, nerve pain, and arthritis.
The patch uses a polymer technology to stick to the skin for the total time it takes to deploy its drug load — the ratio of the active drug to total content of the patch. The researchers say the drug load can be five to 10 times higher than that of traditional patches and gels, meaning it outperforms competition when it comes to drug delivery. What’s more, they say the patch can be easily removed without leaving residue, and that it’s “aesthetically pleasing,” too.
The researchers believe the technology behind the patch has a variety of uses as well. “Our transdermal patch technology expands the range of drugs that can be delivered via skin patches, and can significantly increase drug loading capabilities, while retaining adhesion and being thin and flexible,” Medherant CEO Nigel Davis said in the release. “Thus our patches provide a better experience for patients, enhance safety, and deliver increased efficacy, which will lead to economic benefits to the health care system.”
The patch could benefit the more than 30 million Americans who use NSAIDs — which include ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen — to quell everything from headaches to arthritis. First, however, it most likely have to be tested for effectiveness and safety. If it’s proven to work, Haddleton and his team believe it will be available for over-the-counter use within the next two years.