An invention from Japan conquers the world

Japan Vilene Company supplies non-woven backing products for medical plasters

They contain painkillers, hormones, active pharmaceutical ingredients for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's patients and are easy to apply and use: Medical patches that deliver active pharmaceutical ingredients. The segment is called transdermal drug delivery patch products. The term is derived from the Greek word "derma" for skin and the Latin prefix "trans" for "to go over to something".

Transdermal products consist of different layers: Release films, water- or non-water-based gels containing active pharmaceutical ingredients and carrier materials such as stretchable non-woven fabrics. The Japan Vilene Company Business Group of the Freudenberg Technology Group supplies stretchable nonwoven backing products for medical patches to transdermal product manufacturers worldwide, such as pharmaceutical companies in Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Europe and the United States. Since 1991, these have been manufactured in Tokyo. What was originally intended for the Japanese market is spreading more and more due to many advantages; since 2009, the European market has also been supplied, and the trend is increasing. Worldwide, the growing market for transdermal products has a turnover of about 6.4 billion US dollars.

Similar, but different

There are different categories of transdermal products: "Topical" patches work locally and exactly on the respective part of the body where the product, which measures about 10 by 14 centimetres, sticks for 12 to 24 hours. Example: A heat patch only warms where it is in direct contact with the skin. Especially with large-area, topical plasters, it is very important for patients that the plaster lies well, adapts to the moving skin and feels soft. Another category is called "passive" and includes those patches where the medicines pass through the skin into the entire bloodstream. Because the active pharmaceutical ingredients pass through the skin without "active" support such as electronic pulses, this type of patch is called passive. Typical examples are patches for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, but also those used to deliver nicotine and hormones into the body.

Big in Japan

The fact that the production of these special nonwovens, mostly nonwovens bonded with water jets, is located in Japan has historical and cultural reasons.  In Japan, the use of external healing methods is popular and recognised. "Transdermal products were invented in Japan, which is perhaps one reason why local application of patches in particular is still so popular in Japan and throughout Asia today," says Yoshiki Matsuyama, Senior Sales Manager – Medical Products, at Japan Vilene Company in Tokyo, Japan. "The transdermal product segment is now also one of Freudenberg's growth markets in Europe, the USA as well as China. Especially the passive transdermal products, with which medicines can be administered through the skin, are becoming increasingly popular," says Matsuyama.

In Japan, for example, it is common for someone with a headache to first put a cooling plaster on their forehead. The Japanese don't like tablets, and prefer to use powders, plasters and alternative healing methods. For example, it is common for children suffering from asthma to have their medicine administered via a plaster, whereas in Germany sprays and inhalation are common. Medicine that uses medicinal plants such as ginger and cinnamon in powder form is also very popular in Japan, and the doctor does not administer high-dose synthetically produced medicines.

The advantages

This is where the great advantage of transdermal products becomes particularly clear: they enable long-term, controlled delivery of the medication through the skin. In addition, with patches there are no interactions with food intake that can influence the effectiveness or concentration of the medication. Another advantage: as soon as the patch sticks to the skin, no one has to remember to take the medicine on time. This pays off especially with children or forgetful patients. Another advantage: with tablets, there is a so-called first-pass effect, which means that part of the active ingredient taken orally does not reach the bloodstream, but remains in the liver and intestines. With a patch, on the other hand, controlled release is possible over a longer period of time, from 12 hours to four days.