Flu patch could replace annual jab

Henrietta Brewer
June 28, 2017

The patch is made from sucrose and polyvinyl alcohol and contains 100 microscopic needles that dissolve into the skin. 50 of the study participants tried one on, and 48 of them stated that its application did not hurt.

The trial not only showed that the microneedle patch was safe and effective, with no adverse reactions reported, but that people strongly preferred the experience over vaccination with a hypodermic needle.

"The flu microneedle patch is easy to use - it can be self-administered and, like other medication patches, it is well absorbed through the skin", said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The research was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health.

"Despite recommendations in favour of vaccination, influenza remains a major disease that can lead to significant morbidities and mortalities", recalls the Pr Nadine Rouphael, responsible for this work, and professor of infectious diseases at Emory University (Usa). Höschler and Zambon were not involved in the new study.

"This development eliminates the need for intramuscular injection [a flu shot] by a health care professional", he added.

That should help more people get immunised, including those who are scared of injections, experts told the Lancet journal. Only difference between these systems is that regular flu injections go all the way through and into muscle whereas the patch punctures the most upper layers of the skin, overall the medicine penetrates in the body.

You might soon be able to get a flu vaccine with the pain of a needle.

The new technology can be self-administered and stored without refrigeration, making it significantly cheaper than traditional vaccines. Participants were divided into four groups, one of which received an injection whilst the others wore the microneedle patch for twenty minutes.

"It would remove the bottleneck of actually going to a health care provider to actually receive the vaccine, and it could put people less at risk of acquiring influenza in the hospital and clinic by just receiving it at their home", Rouphael said. Rouphael said 70 percent of those who received the patch in the trial indicated they would prefer it over an injection.

The researchers found that, immediately after vaccination, 96% of adults who received the patch reported in a questionnaire that they felt no pain, whereas 82% of those who received the traditional flu shot reported no pain.

Among participants either administering the patches themselves or having them administered by health care workers, 33 (66%) reported tenderness, 20 (40%) reported erythema and 41 (82%) reported pruritus. The vaccines remained potent in the patches without refrigeration for at least one year. The patch's manufacturer, Global Center for Medical Innovation in Atlanta, is investigating using the device for other vaccines, including for measles, mumps and rubella.

The study wasn't created to be big enough to see whether the patch was more effective than the injection, only to see if it was at least as effective. "It's very gratifying and exciting to have these patches tested in a clinical trial, and with a result that turned out so well". Researchers say it could offer a pain-free and more convenient alternative to flu shots. "The patches can also be stored outside the refrigerator, so you could even mail them to people", said Prausnitz.

He noted however the Australian team is working on a non-dissolving patch. Prausnitz holds the J. Erskine Love Jr. The manufacturing cost for the patch is expected to be competitive with prefilled syringe costs.

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