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How Medicine Patches Can Help You Overcome Pain and Other Health Problems

Fentanyl, Neuropathic Pain, The Patch

For a decade or longer, medicine patches have been associated with an effective way to reduce relentless pain. Patches today, however, help with at least half a dozen medical conditions.

Medicine patches are ideal for individuals who can’t stomach shots. They also make life easier for people who have trouble remembering to stick to a set schedule for taking pills, according to Remedy Magazine.

The medication in a patch absorbs transdermally, or through the skin. In addition to being convenient for the patient, using patches means medications can absorb more efficiently than they can via pills or injections. This is because the delivery rate of the medicine is continuous and controlled, causing drug levels in the blood to remain fairly even over a prolonged period.

If a patient has an adverse reaction to a drug, stopping its administration is quick. It merely involves pulling off the patch instead of waiting for the effects of a pill to wear off.

Following are six health conditions now commonly treated with medicine patches:

Pain relief. For moderate to severe pain that’s also chronic, doctors often now prescribe a narcotic patch that contains fentanyl. It’s a staple in cancer treatment and works for patients who have developed a tolerance to other opioids. The patch also reportedly works well for patients with chronic neuropathic pain and lets them increase their daily activity by more than a third. This patch can deliver pain relief for 72 hours. However, patients must be careful to avoid drug exposure when handling it during disposal.

A new prescription patch containing diclofenac was recently approved. It offers relief for up to 12 hours from strains, brushes and sprains and cuts the chance of digestive side effects common to other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This patch, however, carries a modst increased risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal distress if the patient attempts to use it other than on a short-term basis.

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Symptoms of menopause. Hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) patches can be worn on the derriere, abdomen or extremities to help combat severe hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms. While some contain only estrogen, others combine that drug with progestin. Depending upon the brand, the patient can wear the patch from three days to a week.

Women can control the amount of hormone delivered by cutting the patch with scissors. The estrogen packed into the device, unlike oral estrogens, avoids strongly stimulating the liver to escalate producing triglycerides, inflammatory chemicals and blood-clotting factors. Patients who opt for this type of patch might be at increased risk for breast cancer and should use the lowest effective dose available for the shortest possible time.

Overactive bladder. One type of medicine patch delivers the drug oxybutynin into the patient’s bloodstream. This decreases the urgency and frequency to urinate. It also improves control for those with overactive bladders.

Patients can get continuous medication for up to four days. This type of patch also causes fewer possible side effects than oral medicines do. Wearers must be careful, though, not to expose the patch to sunlight. They should also vary the placement to avoid local irritation or inflammation. This patch is also considered off limits to those who suffer from urinary or gastric retention.

Testosterone deficiency. New patches can treat decreased sexual desire, performance problems, fatigue and depression. Patients apply the patch daily and avoid injections. However, it can take up to eight weeks to work. Some female patients have experienced acne, undesired hair growth, cholesterol changes and weight gain. Its use should be limited to those to really need testosterone replacement therapy.

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Depression. Selegiline is the active drug in an antidepressant patch available for adults. This medication is an MAO inhibitor. The continuous dosage delivered reduces some side effects, such as blood pressure spikes. Patients might need to avoid foods rich in tyramine – sausage, pickled herring, aged cheeses, soybeans – when using the higher-dosage patches. Like their oral cousins, these patches might set off interactions with seizure medications, pain meds, cold remedies or other drugs.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This patch is used to treat children aged 6 to 12. It contains methylphenidate for inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Patients get a new patch every morning and alternate hips as the location.

Because of its continuous delivery, this medicine patch avoids some of the jitters some patients experience with oral stimulants. If falling asleep is a problem, they can just pull off the patch earlier than anticipated. Some of the potential side effects associated with the oral drugs, remain, however. These include headaches, blurred vision, insomnia, abdominal pain and decreased appetite.


  • Stacey Colino, “Power Patches,” Remedy Magazine, Fall 2009.