Fixing Your Migraine Pain With a Patch

FDA approves electrical skin patch to treat migraine

woman with migraine holding head

Nothing hurts like a migraine. The blinding, throbbing pain in your head makes you want to go to a dark room and curl up into a ball. Add the nausea that sometimes accompanies migraine, and you’re in utter misery.

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Good news. Soon a new weapon against migraine pain and migraine-related nausea will be available.

Patch delivers medicine directly

The Food and Drug Administration has, for the first time, approved a migraine patch. The single-use, battery powered patch delivers the widely used migraine medication sumatriptan.  

Neurologist Stewart Tepper, MD, who treats migraine patients at Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Center for Pain, says the patch is an alternative to pills, nasal sprays and injections. “It’s an electrical skin patch with electrodes,” says Dr. Tepper. “It’s placed on the arm or thigh. The patient presses a button turning on the power and the sumatriptan is delivered directly through the skin.”

Nausea relieved by patch

For migraine patients who also suffer nausea, having the medicine bypass the gastrointestinal tract is a big plus. Of the millions of U.S. adults with migraines, many also suffer migraine-related nausea, which can often be as debilitating as the headache pain. Many who suffer from nausea avoid use of oral medications that can upset the stomach.

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“The patch is very effective at getting rid of nausea,” says Dr. Tepper. “For people who start with nausea, more than 70 percent had their nausea relieved by an hour, and over 80 percent by two hours.”

Dr. Tepper says the patch is ideal, too, for people who don’t like the taste of sumatriptan in a nasal spray.

Pain relief may take some time

One drawback of the patch is that it’s not necessarily “fast-acting”— it can take up to two hours or more before the pain is gone. It may also cause pain at the patch site, tingling, itching and irritation on the skin.

People should also talk to their doctor because those with conditions such as heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure would not be able to take the drug.

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Though the patch has been approved, Dr. Tepper notes it may not be available on the market until late 2013.


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