Pain-relieving Skin Patch Does Away with Side Effects

February 24,2016

A clear skin patch called TEPI delivers the painkiller ibuprofen right where it hurts. While pills can cause stomach upset, the patch does not.

Scientists at the University of Warwick in England, led by chemist David Haddleton, developed the five-centimeter square bandage that contains a special polymer adhesive infused with the painkiller.

"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,” Haddleton said. “And then, when that's placed on the skin just like an [adhesive bandage], then the drug will actually diffuse across the skin into the body at the site of the pain, and then relieve the pain the same way as current gels and creams."

The ibuprofen patch could deliver uninterrupted pain relief for up to 24 hours.

The patch is being manufactured by Medherant, a bioadhesive company affiliated with the University of Warwick, co-founded by Haddleton and Andrew Lee.

"We've been in the lab about 12 months,” Lee said, “but in the 12 months, we've essentially assessed about 90 percent of the drugs that are currently available as either creams or patches. We've tested them in our polymers with very good results."

TEPI vs. other patches

Almost two dozen painkilling patches are now on the market, but Lee notes they provide soothing warmth to relieve discomfort, rather than delivering any active painkiller.

Researchers have identified about 20 drugs that could be made into a TEPI patch, but Lee says there are thousands more compounds that could potentially be delivered through the technology.

The clear skin patch containing ibuprofen — used to treat pulled muscles, arthritis and sports injuries — could hit the market in about three years.