No Upset Tummy With New Ibuprofen Skin Patch

New polymer technology makes for better skin patch

Photo Alto/Odilon Dimier/Getty Images

Every new invention or breakthrough in some way attributes its origins to the work of others. New medicines and new formulations of medicines are no different. If you're able to improve on the design of another scientist, and your advance is more effective, more convenient and safer, you're probably on to something.

Recently, lots of hype has surrounded news of a new ibuprofen skin patch being developed by researchers at the University of Warwick and their subsidiary company Medherant.

Apparently, this patch delivery system is more potent, less messy and delivers medication more evenly than anything we have yet to stick on our bodies.

What Is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen (think Advil or Motrin) is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) which reversibly inhibits cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes thus interfering with prostaglandin production. By interfering with prostaglandin synthesis, ibuprofen helps reduce pain, inflammation and fever. Of note, other NSAIDs include aspirin and naproxen.

Experts hypothesize that in addition to disrupting prostaglandin production, ibuprofen may also battle inflammation by affecting the blood in other ways, including alteration of lymphocyte activity, inhibition of chemotaxis, inhibition of neutrophil aggregation or activation, and decrease in proinflammatory cytokine levels.

What Is Ibuprofen Used For?

Ibuprofen is used to lower fever as well as treat various aches and pains, such as those caused by headache, back injury, arthritis, toothache and menstruation.

Interestingly, NSAIDs like ibuprofen are really good at treating the pain of kidney stones. Moreover, ibuprofen can be combined with opioids (such as hydrocodone) to treat more severe pain.

How Is Ibuprofen Administered?

Various routes of administration exist for ibuprofen, including pills, injection, and gels.

Administration of ibuprofen via patch is novel and better than topical application using gels. Ibuprofen gels are messy and don't deliver medication consistently.

Here are some proposed benefits of the ibuprofen patch and its advanced polymer technology:

  • New technology allows the patch to be loaded with five to 10 times more medication. In other words, 30 percent of the weight of the patch is actual medication.
  • Release of medication into the body is more consistent and can work up to 12 hours. Currently, people on high dosages of ibuprofen may need to swallow pills every four hours.
  • The patch is more adhesive, flexible, comfortable and discrete than other patches. Furthermore, the patch leaves less residue and is small and transparent.

The ibuprofen patch was designed using new polymer technology created by a company called Bostik and licensed for transdermal use by Medherant.

Potential Applications of New Patch Could Be Game-Changing

According to Medherant, many of the pain-relief patches that are currently available contain no painkiller medication and instead release heat (think menthol).

Thus, these patches of old are limited in their uses. Medherant's new ibuprofen patch is innovative in several ways.

First because the patch is inconspicuous, long-acting and easy-to-use, it will likely prove particularly beneficial to certain patient populations like athletes and people who have issues with medication adherence. For example, an athlete could apply the patch to an area of strain or sprain and practice for hours, or a person who is taking lots of medications could have less pills to worry about.

Second, by bypassing the stomach and releasing medication straight through the skin, the ibuprofen patch would result in no stomach upset, a common adverse effect in those on high dosages of oral NSAIDs.

Third, the technology used to develop this patch can be co-opted to deliver other types of medications—medications, which like ibuprofen, were once unamenable to patch administration. Of note, other pain relievers are also administered in patch form like fentanyl (an opioid) and lidocaine (a topical anesthetic), and it would be interesting to see if this new patch technology could improve administration of these drugs, too.

Does Ibuprofen Have Adverse Effects?

Ibuprofen is sold over the counter and the risk of adverse effects is low. Stomach irritation is by far the most common adverse effect of NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Some other adverse effects of ibuprofen include bleeds (like brain bleeds or stroke) and ulcer irritation.

Check out this article about how NSAIDs are linked to undescended testes in infants.

As previously mentioned, the makers of the new ibuprofen patch claim that with their patch, there is no risk of stomach irritation because the medication is absorbed by the skin not by the gastrointestinal tract.

However in rare cases, ibuprofen can cause nasty rashes, hives and other skin reactions. People with a history of atopy, or those who are "hyperallergic" and suffer from eczema, hay fever and allergic asthma, are more likely to be allergic to ibuprofen. Nevertheless, people without atopy have developed allergy to ibuprofen.

The ibuprofen patch is further away from hitting the market and has yet to be FDA approved. So far, there is little published research on the patch—most of what we know comes from press releases, interviews and media reports—and we'll need to see more actual data before we truly understand this new formulation. For instance, its unclear whether the increased dose and sustained topical delivery of the ibuprofen patch could somehow exacerbate skin reactions in those who are allergic to NSAIDs. 

Looking forward, Medherant, the maker of the ibuprofen patch, anticipates that its novel drug-delivery system will be used to administer other drugs and over-the-counter painkillers many of which were previously unavailable in patch form. For instance, Medherant is experimenting with a methyl salicylate patch. (Methly salicylate is the main active ingredient in BENGAY.)

Sources
Article titled "Delayed-type hypersensitivity rash from ibuprofen" by E Nettis and co-authors published in Allergy in 2003.

Entry titled "Ibuprofen" from the Drug Monographs section of Access Medicine.

 

 

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