What Is a Transdermal Patch & How Does It Work?

Have you ever tried a transdermal patch? These products are one of the multiple ways of administering drugs, supplements, and other compounds. They utilize your skin to get the required substances into the bloodstream.

In this article, we will discover more about transdermal patches and their working process. We will also discuss details of applying the patches, and the history of transdermal drug delivery.

What Is a Transdermal Patch?

Before we discuss what a transdermal patch is, let’s get to know the basics of the skin. The experts explain how our skin has multiple layers: [1]

  • Epidermis – it is the outer section that is waterproof, and we can touch it.
  • Dermis – this is the middle part where blood vessels are located.
  • Hypodermis – it is the subcutaneous tissue of the skin.

A transdermal patch is a product that serves to administer medications and other products through the skin. The patch is applied directly to the outer layer of the skin with your hands. Once applied, the patch starts delivering the compounds found in it. Since the skin is permeable, the substances gradually release into our bloodstream.

It is interesting to note that the scientists agree transdermal drug delivery has had a significant effect on medical practice. [2] Although it is already an important asset in administering medications, the experts pinpoint that it still hasn’t achieved its full potential. That means there is more room for improving transdermal patches, and their effectiveness will only enhance over time. It is vital to pinpoint that they already have high efficiency and are very convenient to use.

How Do Transdermal Patches Work?

We will get to describing the working process of transdermal patches in a moment. First, let’s get to know all the components of this product.

Although it varies from one unit to another, the most frequent components found in a transdermal patch include: [3]

  • Liner – it is where manufacturers pack the patch. The main purpose of the liner is to keep the patch safe in transport and storage. It doesn’t take part in the working process, which is why users remove it before applying the patch.
  • Adhesive – it is the sticky section that serves to keep the patch connected to the skin. It is one of the crucial components since it enables the gradual release of the compounds found inside the product.
  • Substances – these are medications, nutrients, or any other compounds that the patch delivers into the bloodstream.
  • Membrane – the task of the membrane is to ensure the gradual release of the substances found in the patch.
  • Backing – it is the section that keeps the patch safe from the environment.
  • Permeation supporters – these components serve to improve substance delivery.

For the manufacturers, it is crucial to design their medications and supplements in a specific way. The molecules included should be downsized so that they can penetrate the outer layer of the skin. The patches should maintain contact with the skin for a long time to be effective. That means the patch should remain on the skin for at least several hours.

The working process is rather simple. The user applies the transdermal patch to the skin by following the instructions. Once the patch is applied, it starts working. The substances gradually advance through the membrane and get in touch with the skin. The skin is permeable, so these compounds get into the bloodstream and start working immediately.

The membrane works to ensure a gradual and timed release of the substances. That way, you ensure a constant intake of particular nutrients, medications, or other compounds.

How to Apply a Transdermal Patch?

Transdermal patches are easy to apply, and it is one of their benefits. Everything starts by reading the manual for your particular patch. The instructions will reveal the details, such as the best location for the patch and when you should take it off and replace it with a new one.

Before applying your patch, it is crucial to clean your hands. You can do that by washing them with lukewarm water and soap. That is the best way of cleaning your hands, although you can also use a hand sanitizer if there is no soap around.

Do you already have a patch of the same drug somewhere on your body? If that is true, now it is time to remove it. Unless the instructions recommend it, avoid wearing two patches of the same substance at once. Removing the patch is simple enough, but the process requires patience. Use your fingers to peel back the patch’s edge. Now, pull the patch off your skin just like you would pull a sticker from an album. Put the patch into the garbage, and make sure to glue the sticky sides together.

The next thing to decide is whether the new patch will go in the same location. Regardless of the part of the body, it is crucial to clean and prepare the skin. [4] You can do this by using lukewarm water and soap to eliminate oils, lotions, dirt, or any other substances on the skin. Use a towel to dry the skin and proceed to the next step only when it is completely dry.

Use scissors or your hands to open the package containing the patch. Make sure that you don’t cut the patch because it needs to stay whole. Now, grab the patch with your hands and remove the liner. That will uncover the sticky section of the patch. Make sure not to touch the sticky part, or you could compromise the adhesive.

Now, apply the patch to the skin. You want to place the sticky side to the body part where you prepared to put the patch. Use the palm to ensure the patch has made a firm connection with the skin. Press along the entire patch to ensure there is no air, folds, or bumps. That way, you ensure the patch will remain attached for as long as necessary.

The only thing remaining to do now is to wash your hands again. If there is any waste remaining, throw it into a trashcan.

History of Transdermal Patches

Did you know that the US Food and Drug Administration approved transdermal prescription patches in 1979? [5] The first patches contained hyoscine, which can assist with postoperative vomiting and nausea, and help in managing motion sickness. These patches were the results of decades of work, and scientists continued perfecting them from that point.

Topical remedies have been used ever since ancient times. Traditional medicines often recommend topical applications of herbs and other remedies for various conditions. Numerous books and other sources indicate that people have understood the benefits of applying remedies and medications topically for ages.

Many clinical trials have confirmed the success of topical applications for managing various conditions. [5] The problem was in the messy application and the requirement to apply the substances frequently. It was in the 1970s when researchers found a way to systemize the delivery through the skin. These early patches contained an adhesive, as well as a membrane. The delivery methods were perfected over the years until the first patch was approved by the FDA in 1979.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Transdermal Patch?

Now that you are familiar with the basic history and working process of transdermal patches how about checking out why you should use them?

These are the benefits pinpointed by experts and those who tried transdermal drug delivery.

No Need for Injections or Swallowing the Pills

Discussing user convenience is important, whether you are administering medications or supplements. Many are afraid of needles, and even those who don’t prefer an alternative that doesn’t involve poking them. You can also find many people finding it hard to swallow pills, especially if the capsules are gigantic.

That is where skin patches come into play. All you need to do is to apply them to your skin. That is perfectly painless, and it only takes several seconds.

Constant Substance Administration

Since transdermal drug delivery involves patches containing membranes, they control the rate of substance delivery. They secure you receive a constant rate of the substances, which improves their absorption and overall effectiveness. You don’t get a big dose of supplements or drugs right away, which also reduces the risk of experiencing any side effects.

Transdermal drug delivery is also good news for the manufacturers. Since the substances go directly into the bloodstream and have a high absorption rate, they can use less of the compound in the manufacturing process.

Capable of Administering Substances That You Cannot Absorb via the GI Tract

Humans can’t absorb some compounds via the gastrointestinal tract, or their absorption is severely limited. Transdermal drug delivery ensures that these substances go into the bloodstream by bypassing the GI tract. Thanks to that, the efficiency of many medications have been improved and taken to the next level.

Finally, transdermal patches are safe to use. Their specific application method brings a wide array of benefits and ensures you can maximize the effectiveness of the medication or supplement use.




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