What are Medication Patches?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2016
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Medication patches are thin patches with an adhesive backing that are placed on the skin to deliver medication by absorption through the skin into the blood stream. Medication patches are also called transdermal patches or skin patches. There are a variety of drugs delivered through medication patches, allowing the patch to be a diverse pharmaceutical tool – especially for those who may forget to take their medication or have difficulty swallowing capsules or tablets.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies medication patches as a combination product that is both a medical device and a drug. Though many different medications are delivered through medication patches, the most common transdermal patch is the nicotine patch. The nicotine patch was designed as a smoking cessation aid that delivers regulated doses of nicotine into the blood stream to help alleviate cravings while a person breaks the habit of smoking. Once only available by prescription, the nicotine patch is now available over the counter.

Other forms of medication that are available as medication patches include hormones for hormone replacement therapy and also birth control, pain relievers, anti-depressants and medication for the management of attention deficit/hyper activity disorder (ADHD). Many people prefer to use medication patches over oral medication because they are more convenient and less discrete. Similarly, people who experience difficulty with swallowing can benefit from medication patches. However, some people experience skin irritation with medication patches and prefer oral medication.


Proper application of medication patches may vary with each drug and use should be in accordance to the prescribing doctor’s instructions. When applying medication patches, be sure to place them in slightly different areas of the required body location to help reduce skin irritation. As with all drugs, medication patches carry potential side effects that a patient should be advised of by their doctor or pharmacist.

New developments in the pharmaceutical industry happen every day and more medications are becoming available in patches. Many people find that they prefer the drug delivery method of patches and find them convenient. Since most medication patches allow the user to bathe and swim, they are not disruptive to daily life. You can ask your doctor if a specific prescription is available as a patch, but always be sure to read any and all information included with your prescription before you use it.


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