Janssen-Cilag’s new pain patch Ionsys is now available in hospitals throughout the UK, offering patients with post-operative pain a novel and easy-to-use alternative to current methods of control.

Ionsys uses an electric current to deliver fentanyl via a needle-free, credit-card sized device by the push of a button, allowing patients to self-administer the painkiller when needed.

The system is activated when the patient pushes the button twice within 3 seconds, which starts the delivery of 40mcg of fentanyl into the blood stream over a 10-minute period. The maximum total number of doses over a 24-hour period is 80, and the system will shut itself down if this number is reached, or the time frame has passed, whichever comes first.

A spokesperson for the company told PharmaTimes UK News that each system costs £62 (per 24-hour period or 80 doses), and that this is competitively priced when compared to traditional IV PCA, particularly when its potential advantage are taken into account.

Although putting pain control in patients’ hands is not new in itself, systems already on the market depend on injections to administer the painkiller, and the patient can experience considerable discomfort if needles become blocked or dislodged.

Furthermore, “these electronic systems also carry a risk of potentially serious complications such as programming and dosage errors,” explained Professor Richard Langford, Consultant Anaesthetist, Barts and The London NHS Trust, London.

He believes “Ionsys could make a real impact on how healthcare providers manage patients’ post-operative pain,” and listing another potential benefit, added: “Being less cumbersome than the conventional pumps, another advantage is reduced interference with mobilising patients after surgery.”

Approval in 2006
Ionsys won European marketing approval back in January 2006 but, as the spokesperson explained, the time since its clearance has been spent scaling up manufacturing and production for its launch.

Specifically, Ionsys was cleared for use in patients with acute moderate to severe pain after surgery, after four clinical trials involving 2,600 patients showed the products to be as effective in managing pain than standard intravenous patient-controlled analgesia systems.

According to the company, the management of acute pain following surgery, although a “crucial component of patient care and recovery”, continues to be under managed, with 55% of European anaesthetists expressing dissatisfaction with how post-operative pain is managed on surgical wards, underscoring the need for new and effective alternatives.