The world's first ibuprofen patch, which delivers pain relief directly to the skin, has been developed by researchers from the University of Warwick. The patch contains significant amounts of the drug, and is the only one of its kind that consistently delivers the painkiller.

Working with Medherant, the bioadhesives company, the researchers managed to incorporate drug loads - as high as 30% of the weight of the patch – into the polymer matrix – the part that sticks to the patient's skin. The large amount of ibuprofen added means that this technology has at least five times the drug load compared to other medical patches, and can last for up to 12 hours.

"Our technology now means that we can, for the first time, produce patches that contain effective doses of active ingredients such as ibuprofen for which no patches currently exist," said David Haddleton, Research Chemist at the University. "Also, we can improve the drug loading and stickiness of patches containing other active ingredients to improve patient comfort and outcome."

The patch uses polymer technology developed by Bostik, the global adhesive company. This type of transdermal patch – a patch which administers drugs directly through the skin – requires a certain type of polymer, and only a few have the requisite characteristics.

"Our success in developing this breakthrough patch design isn't limited to ibuprofen; we have also had great results testing the patch with methyl salicylate (used in over-the-counter medicines, including muscle ache creams)," said Haddleton. "We believe that many other over the counter and prescription drugs can exploit our technology and we are seeking opportunities to test a much wider range of drugs and treatments within our patch."

Medherant are hoping to establish a range of different transdermal drug delivery technology, but they say their first product will be over-the-counter pain relief patches. They expect the product to be available in around two years time.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the first available transdermal medical patch in December 1979. These patches were used to treat motion sickness by administering scopolamine.