For medicines that do not go down well in pill form, administering drugs via transdermal patches is nothing new. Patches are currently on the market for nicotine replacement, birth control, and even pain relief. But many drugs, such as an effective migraine medication called sumatriptan, do not pass easily from a patch into the skin. Drug company NuPathe has a solution: at the press of a button, an electric current running through the patch gently prods the meds into your body.
For the one-third of migraine sufferers who experience nausea or vomiting, relief via oral meds can be troublesome. Sometimes not enough of the drug is absorbed, or the quick-acting pills cause unwanted side effects such as esophagus contractions and panic, CEO Jane Hollingsworth told Popsci.com. NuPathe’s patch, called Zelrix, steadily releases the pharmaceuticals into the bloodstream. “We can control the levels exactly, so that they don’t get too high but are high enough to be effective,” said Hollingsworth.
When a migraine sufferer starts experiencing symptoms, they press a button on the patch, which closes a circuit and drives the naturally positively charged drug through the skin. A chip regulates consistent release over the next four hours, after which the patch is discarded. “All of the little electronic parts that are in it are off the shelf,” said Hollingsworth.
Last week, NuPathe announced the successful completion of a Phase III clinical trial, which puts it on schedule to submit a new drug application to the FDA next year. Although the company is saving results for a conference next month, it says its double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that Zelrix significantly reduced pain and other migraine symptoms, and most side effects were mild, on the order of skin irritation and the like.