Microchip-equipped patch may offer migraine relief

December 21, 2009 6:56:01 PM PST
For years, people who suffer from migraines have relied on medications to control the symptoms of their devastating headaches but for some, using drugs in a pill form proved difficult.

Researchers are now testing a new method of delivery.

For Gabriella Iaocovetti, severe headaches three or four times a week can bring her business and family life to a halt.

"No light. No noise. I try to put my head under the covers," she says.

Like many migraine suffers, Iaocovetti also gets nauseous, which makes taking pills a problem.

"Patients will tell you, 'Food hangs in my stomach. I'm sick to my stomach,'" says Dr. Stephen Silberstein at Jefferson University Hospital.

Even when Iaocovetti can swallow a pill, she says it takes several doses to find relief. Then, her doctor told her about an alternative now being tested. It is called the Zelrix Patch. It uses Sumatriptan, one of the most common migraine medications.

Since the drug is not normally absorbed through the skin, researchers added a tiny chip which generates a micro-current of electricity, to push it into the pores. It is about the same strength as the chips that power a musical greeting card.

Jane Hollingsworth heads up Nupath, the company that makes the chips.

"There's a little button that you push and that starts it," she explains. "A little red light tells you if it's working or not, so you can see it."

She says the patch delivers a controlled amount of medication for four hours then shuts off. She says so far, there have been no significant side effects in the clinical trials. Iaocovetti enrolled in the double blind study and while there is no way to know if she received the real patch, she believes her symptoms are already better.

"Within two hours I had relief from the migraines," she told ABC7. "The pain had pretty much gone."

The results of phase three clinical trials showed the patch was effective in treating migraines. The company plans to file a new drug application with the FDA in 2010.


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