Novartis says it has received US approval for Exelon Patch, which delivers a treatment for Alzheimer's disease through a skin patch instead of an oral capsule.

The Swiss firm noted that "this new therapy is the first and only transdermal treatment for this degenerative condition affecting millions of people in the USA" and offers effective treatment based on "placebo-controlled clinical trial results showing significant benefits to patients in terms of their memory and ability to perform everyday tasks as well as helping their overall functioning".

The Exelon (rivastigmine) Patch, which is applied to the back, chest or upper arm, maintains steady drug levels in the bloodstream, improving tolerability and allowing a higher proportion of patients to receive therapeutic doses of medication, with potential improvements in efficacy, Novartis said, adding that Exelon Patch minimises gastrointestinal side effects seen with the oral form of the drug.

"Innovation isn't just about developing new compounds, but also about meeting therapeutic needs by taking existing knowledge and applying it in new ways," said James Shannon, head of development at Novartis Pharma. "Exelon Patch addresses an important medical need by delivering a proven drug in an entirely new form that meets the needs of patients and their caregivers."