Source: Excite News
Date: 16 March 2004

Skin Patch Helps Patients Relieve Pain

By MATTHEW BRZEZINSKI

CHICAGO (AP) - A skin patch that lets the patient deliver a morphine-like drug worked as well as an intravenous pump at relieving pain in people who had undergone major surgery, a manufacturer-funded study found.

The results suggest that a self-controlled needle-free method of pain relief might be on the horizon for hospital patients.

Alza Corp. is seeking federal approval for its product - a medicine-filled skin patch the size of a credit card. It is attached to the arm or chest. Patients push a button on the patch to deliver the painkiller. "Anyone who has ever had surgery remembers the discomfort of having IVs and needles," said Dr. Eugene Viscusi, the lead author and director of the acute pain management service at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. "This patch system has a huge potential advantage."

The study of 636 hospitalized adults recovering from major surgery - including joint replacement, hysterectomy and prostate removal - appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive the patch containing fentanyl hydrochloride, a drug similar to morphine, or an IV pump containing morphine. Both methods enable patients to administer the painkiller as they need it.

After 24 hours of treatment, about 74 percent of patch users and 77 percent of pump users rated their pain-relief methods as good or excellent, a statistical near dead-heat.

Nineteen people in each of the two groups had side effects, with headaches and nausea the most common.

Six percent of patch patients complained of irritations at the patch site, but none of the pump patients had any needle-site reactions.

In addition, 15 percent of patch patients quit the study because of inadequate pain relief, compared with 10 percent of pump patients. Those results were not considered statistically significant.



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