British researchers have devised an ibuprofen patch that allows concentrated delivery to the site of pain, while limiting potential side effects. They say the technology could be adapted for many other drugs. Jim Drury reports.
Delivering ibuprofen via a plaster could be the future for pain relief. Scientists at Warwick University and spin-off Medherant have developed a patch that delivers relief direct to the pain site, at higher doses than possible in pills or gels. The patch uses a polymer matrix developed by international adhesive firm Bostik. SOUNDBITE (English) UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK RESEARCH CHEMIST PROFESSOR DAVID HADDLETON, SAYING: "What we do is dissolve the active ibuprofen, for example, into the adhesive so we can have quite a high loading - so up to 30 percent of the adhesive will be the ibuprofen; and then when that's placed on the skin just like an elastoplast then the drug will actually diffuse across the skin into the body at the site of the pain and then relieve the pain in the same way that current gels and creams with, as I said, we're controlling the dosage and we're keeping it there for a prolonged period of time." Medherant has developed patches lasting for up to 24 hours. Lab tests have shown huge promise. The team says its TEPI patch could treat chronic back pain, neuralgia and arthritis, with fewer side effects. Future versions could use other medications, such as opioid painkillers. SOUNDBITE (English) DR ANDREW LEE, CO-FOUNDER OF MEDHERANT, SAYING: "One of the interesting areas that we plan to explore in partnership with large companies is actually using our platform technology to include other drugs that previously maybe haven't been suitable for topical or transdermal delivery - or drugs which may have not got through the regulatory filings because, for instance, they might have caused stomach irritation or other side effects when taken orally." The patches peel off easily and could be on the market within three years.