First skin patch for Alzheimer's gains federal approval

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alzheimer's patients soon may be able to take medication for the condition through a skin patch.

The patch's maker, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, says it has received federal approval for the patch.

The drug contained in the patch, Exelon, is the same as one now available in capsule form. But the company says the patch may be better for patients, providing a regular and continuous dose of the drug throughout the day. It also says since the drug enters the bloodstream directly, some of its gastrointestinal side effects would be eliminated.

The drug isn't a cure for Alzheimer's, but it is intended to treat symptoms of mild to moderate dementia. The ultimately fatal disease robs patients of their memory and also changes how they think and behave.

Novartis says the prescription patch will be available soon.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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