It’s no surprise that older adults often need more therapeutic drugs and chronic therapies to deal with various health conditions and consequences of aging. It’s also no surprise that patients and doctors alike would prefer better delivery options for some medicines than having to run an IV through the skin or taking daily pills. Fortunately, researchers are on the job and have been working diligently to devise a better alternative.
The alternative? Needles. Lots and lots of needles. All at once. But don’t worry! They’re microneedles—so tiny that 50 can exist on an applicator the size of a penny. The technique involved is currently called the “poke and patch.” The “poke” is when the applicator is applied to a patient’s arm and the microneedles open channels into the bloodstream by passing through the fat that serves as a sort of “mortar” between skin cells. The “patch” is a medicated gel that gets applied afterward and uses the channels to deliver medicine into the body.
It’s not exactly a comforting thought to imagine 50 needles being jabbed into your skin, whether they’re tiny or not, but thankfully the process is actually painless since the needles are so small. In fact, the procedure is so quick and precise that your body won’t even have time to realize what’s happened.
This technique is important for two main reasons. The first is that it can work with almost any medicine, and direct-bloodstream access helps most medications work faster. The second is that the patch has been formulated with “helper drugs” to prevent skin inflammation, allowing a single patch to be worn for up to a week instead of the previous 48 hours. This is more convenient for patients since it requires less in the way of re-application. Combined, these two factors mean that the “poke and patch” method dramatically simplifies the delivery of any drug it’s used with and can avoid issues such as trouble finding a vein or difficulty swallowing pills.
Source for Today’s Article:
Anding, K., “How Can Microneedles Help Older Adults?” IowaNow web site, July 5, 2016; http://now.uiowa.edu/2016/07/how-can-microneedles-help-older-adults, last accessed July 6, 2016.