That Migraine-Treating Patch Might Have A Huge Problem

Photographed by Eric T. White.
Update: Earlier this month the FDA warned consumers that the agency has received a number of reports from patients that the Zecuity migraine patch has left them with serious burns and scarring. This week, Teva Pharmaceuticals announced it is temporarily suspending sales, distribution, and marketing of the patches to figure out what's going on. Teva also recommends that consumers stop using the patches they have and doctors stop prescribing them for the time being. Continue to our original story below to learn more about how the patches work.
This article was originally published on September 2, 2015.

We are (unfortunately) quite familiar with the mind-busting pain of migraines and all the crazy things researchers are trying to do to make them go away. But as of this week, there's a new migraine-busting option in town: a patch.

Originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) back in 2013, the Zecuity patch is now finally available in the U.S. The patch is worn on the arm or thigh and delivers sumatriptan — a common generic prescription drug for migraine treatment that's been available in the U.S. since 1991 — through the skin over a period of four hours.

The patch is battery-powered and helps move the drug through the skin with the help of an electrical current, which may cause a slight tingling sensation or (mild) burning in the first 30 seconds. Zecuity (originally called Zelrix) is turned on with a press of a button. A red light goes on to let you know that the device is working, then, when the light goes off, you're done.

Migraine sufferers — and there are approximately 36 million of you in the States — are probably no strangers to sumatriptan. The medication is already available in the form of a pill, nasal spray, and injection. But nausea is a common side effect of both the medication and migraines.

"Some people may delay taking their migraine medicine if they experience nausea as part of their migraine," explains Doris Saltkill, a Teva Pharmaceuticals spokesperson. However, because the patch avoids going through your digestive system, it can deliver the same medication (over a longer period of time) without upsetting your tummy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Of course, Zecuity has its own downsides. For one, the patches are single-use and disposable. If you go through a lot of 'em, you might rack up a lot of waste. And in trials, about a quarter of participants complained about pain at the site of the bandage and many others weren't fans of the redness that it left behind. So in some cases, popping a pill may still be the easiest option.

Also, they're eight inches long and four wide — not exactly easy to hide under a shirt sleeve. So be prepared to explain what that weird blinking bandage on your arm is about a thousand times a day.
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