Caregivers Take on the Alzheimer’s Patch

Alzheimer's drug skin patches may save time and worry for caregivers

(RxWiki News) Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may have a lot to manage. Can skin patches that deliver drugs save time, energy and improve quality of life for caregivers?

A recent study found that skin patches saved time for caregivers compared to pills. When people used the patch, their caregivers also had less anxiety about medications. But these benefits did not change the way caregivers felt about their overall quality of life.

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The study, led by Oliver Riedel, PhD, at the Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy of Technische Universität in Dresden, Germany, wanted to compare oral meds to skin patches for people with AD.

They enrolled 403 patients with AD who were taking an AD medication either using a skin patch, taking oral meds, or not taking any meds at all.

They interviewed the caregivers of the patients about the amount of time and burden in their caretaking duties.

All the patients in the study who were taking a medication showed improvement in their symptoms – as rated by both their caregivers and their doctors.

Caregivers of people using the patch spent less time, had less daily burden and had less anxiety about medication.  But these benefits did not improve quality of life for the caregiver.

So, although the patch saved some time and effort, it was not significant enough to change the way caregivers rated their overall quality of life.

The authors concluded that, “Benefits associated with transdermal treatment do not translate into a better ‘generic quality of life’ of the caregiver.”

This study did not randomly assign people to treatment groups. So doctors chose the way the drug would be given – patch or pill. This may mean that some factors about the patients, like level of function or certain behaviors, may have been part of a doctor’s choice to use the patch. These unknown factors may have influenced the results of this study.

Currently, the drug Exelon (rivastigmine), made by Novartis, is the only AD drug available as a skin patch. It is worn for 24 hours each day. The patch is like a sticker placed on the skin once each day, and it delivers a steady dose of drug to the patient.

A one month supply of the Exelon patch can cost around $275, depending on the dose and insurance coverage. This is about $20 per month more than oral forms of Exelon. Generic forms are less expensive, but the patch is not available in generic form yet.

This study was published November 8 in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra. The study was funded by grants from Novartis Pharma GmbH.

Some of the authors on this study report financial affiliations with Novartis, Eisai, Pfizer, Lilly and Merz, among others.

Review Date: 
January 3, 2013