- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved a new treatment option for Alzheimer”s patients in the form of a drug patch to replace the traditional pill.

The Exelon patch, named after the pill form of the drug, is made by Swiss drug maker Novartis AG and will be used to treat mild-to-moderate cases of the disease.

By being applied to the patient”s back, chest or upper arm, the patch can provide a steady level of the drug in the bloodstream that will be maintained for 24 hours.

The Exelon patch provides “significant improvement in memory and ability to perform everyday activities” while helping to reduce the nausea and vomiting associated with other Alzheimer’s drugs, Novartis said.

Federal approval of the patch should revive sales growth of a drug that has declined amid intense competition from Pfizer Inc.’s Aricept, which can be prescribed to more types of patients, and Forest Laboratories’ Nameda.

Exelon generated sales of $525 million for Novartis last year. Analysts expect sales to jump to around $924 million this year.

The patch will help tide over Novartis after it loses patent protection on Exelon pills, something that could happen as early as this year.

“I don’t believe the patch will revolutionize the treatment of Alzheimer’s but I do believe it could be beneficial to patients who are resistant to taking pills because they don’t want to, or pills cause nausea,” said Debra Cherry, executive vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association in Los Angeles.

The Exelon patch is expected to be available in U.S. pharmacies soon, according to Novartis.

Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease that can cause severe lapses in memory, afflicts more than 5 million people in the United States and 18 million worldwide.

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