FDA Approves Skin Patch for Migraines in Adults

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Adults who suffer from acute migraines have a new treatment option. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of a skin patch to treat these headaches. The device has the agency's blessing for migraines with or without an aura.

The skin patch is a sumatriptan iontophoretic transdermal system known as Zecuity, according to Medical News Today. Specialty pharmaceutical company NuPathe Inc. produces and markets Zecuity for both migraine pain and nausea.

The National Headache Foundation reports that nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. Between 70 and 80 percent of them have a family history of these headaches. Women between age 15 and 55 are three times more likely than men to have them. Around 20 percent of sufferers experience an aura, a warning that a headache is on its way.

According to MedlinePlus, abnormal brain activity triggered by a variety of factors is the cause of migraines. However, experts have not determined a precise sequence of events.

There is no particular cure for migraines, and sufferers experience varying degrees of relief. Doctors attempt to treat symptoms as quickly as possible and help patients identify triggers. For individuals who suffer periodic attacks, home management of these headaches is crucial.

Patients who experience frequent migraines might take certain medications on a long-term basis to cut the number of episodes. Options include certain antidepressants, blood pressure drugs like beta blockers, and some seizure medications. Some have success with Botox injections.

When an attack occurs, treatment is available as a nasal spray, suppository, or injection. The medications used include triptans, ergots, and isometheptene. Some patients take nausea drugs, sedatives, or narcotics for pain.

Zecuity, a single-use device, delivers sumatriptan through the skin. During a migraine, the patient places the battery-powered patch on the thigh or upper arm, then presses a button to activate the medication. Migraine sufferers with nausea should avoid oral medications because of the chance of vomiting. Use of the patch allows the medication to bypass the gastrointestinal tract.

The FDA approved the patch after reviewing trials with 800 patients and more than 10,000 patches. The trials showed the drug safe and effective in relieving severe headache, nausea, photophobia, and sound sensitivity within two hours of use.

While 29 percent of subjects on a placebo obtained relief from pain, 53 percent of Zecuity patients achieved the same result. Eighty-three percent of patch users had no nausea symptoms within two hours, compared to 63 percent of those on the placebo.

I have had three migraines, each five years apart and lasting six weeks without interruption. The diagnosis was atypical migraine. Tests never determined a trigger, and no medication dulled the acute throbbing. Since I'm unable to predict an attack, I would be eager to try the FDA-approved skin patch for use with adults who have migraines.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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