The treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is set to be revolutionised, as it has been found that a skin patch could offer effective drug administration. Only needing to be changed once a week, the patch would be worn on the upper arm and contain the same active ingredients as Aricept.
Thousands of dementia sufferers in the UK already take Aricept to ease their symptoms. While it is not a cure, it slows down the progression of the disease and can improve an individual’s quality of life, preserving their independence for longer.
By the very nature of the condition, it can be difficult for dementia patients to remember to take their tablets, however, which is where the skin patch comes in. Twice the size of a postage stamp, it would administer the medication in a constant stream through the skin and into the capillaries.
When the drug has entered the bloodstream, it then travels to the brain and ups the levels of acetylcholine. This substance has the effect of enabling nerve cells to communicate with each other and combatting memory loss and confusion.
Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at the Alzheimer's Society, told the Mail Online: “This patch could help people get their medication more easily by just applying the patch to their skin once a week, rather than taking daily tablets.
“This could be very handy, as we know people with Alzheimer's experience confusion, memory problems and difficulty swallowing in the later stages.”
Aricept is one of the most important weapons against dementia at present and has been since it first emerged two decades ago. Despite its ability to improve conditions for the user, some research suggests fewer than 60 per cent of those who are prescribed it manage to take it properly.
Relatives and carers could ensure that the patch is changed once a week and not need to be concerned with monitoring tablets. The patch can even be worn in the shower, meaning it should remain attached to the skin constantly.
By cutting out the tablets, side effects could also be minimised, as passing through the stomach can lead to nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite. Corium Pharmaceuticals, the drug firm that has developed the patch, hopes to have it on the market within a year.
Dr Brown added: “Aricept can give people extra months, and even years, of living relatively symptom-free. But as it stands, it is only available in tablet form. This patch could be a useful alternative.
“With no new drug for dementia in the last 15 years, it's vital we focus on improving the lives of people living with the illness today, as well as researching a cure for tomorrow.”
One in six people over the age of 80 in the UK suffer from dementia, according to figures from the Alzheimer’s Society. The proportion of care home residents across the country with the condition or some form of severe memory issue stands at 70 per cent, highlighting just how prevalent it is.