New 'patch' drug therapy for Alzheimer's has fewer side effects

Alzheimer's, is the most common form of dementia and affects as many as 15 million people worldwide.

A new treatment for Alzheimer's patients which uses a patch to infuse the drug Exelon through patients' skin is being developed and early results show promise.

According to the results of a six-month drug trial, patients wearing a once-daily skin patch experience fewer side effects than those who take the drugs orally.

The trial, involved 1,195 patients in 21 countries, and found that users of the Exelon patch reported three times less nausea and vomiting than those swallowing capsules of the drug.

The Exelon transdermal patch which was developed by Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG, is a new approach in the treatment of the disabling degenerative brain disease and works by releasing the drug into the bloodstream in a controlled and continuous manner, thus ensuring a steady dosage.

The patch removes the need for patients to take certain pills, and appears to have fewer side effects than the same drug in an oral form.

Lead study investigator Bengt Winblad says the patch has the potential to enable patients to tolerate higher doses of the drug which boosts neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

Researchers believe the patch will be of benefit to patients with mild to moderate forms of Alzheimer's disease.

Exelon is in a class of medications called cholinesterase inhibitors. Other cholinesterase medications include Aricept (donepezil) and Reminyl (galantamine) and any patient who has benefited from these medications may benefit from this patch.

The patch has advantages because patients or caregivers can apply it once daily and the need to remember to take multiple doses of a medication is eliminated.

In the study the Exelon patch significantly helped more than 600 patients with their active daily routines and thinking, when compared to those patients who received a patch that was not medicated.

Oral Exelon causes serious nausea and vomiting, but patients who took the patch experienced far fewer side effects than those patients taking the pill form but it did cause skin irritation in a small percentage of patients.

Novartis expects to seek regulatory approval for the Exelon patch by the end of this year.

Exelon has already been approved in many countries to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's and the dementia associated with Parkinson's disease.

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