KUALA LUMPUR: Osteoarthritis patients now have the option of using a transdermal patch to relieve their pain.
The esflurbiprofen patch, known by the brand name Locoa, is available via prescription at hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.
While there are many pain-relieving transdermal patches on the market, none are effective enough to treat osteoarthritic pain.
This patch, produced by Japanese pharmaceutical Taisho Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, offers better tissue penetration for more effective treatment.
Malaysia is the first country outside Japan to offer the patch, which has benefited more than a million Japanese osteoarthritic sufferers last year alone.
“With this patch, patients need to take fewer oral painkillers – one patch a day is enough and there is no need to remove it during a shower,” said consultant orthopaedic and arthroplasty surgeon Dr Suhail Suresh Abdullah.
He added that as the patch is considered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), it can also treat inflammation, although it is not currently approved to treat muscular pain or sports injuries.
Speaking at the launch of the esflurbiprofen patch in conjunction with World Arthritis Day yesterday, Dr Suhail noted that 30.8% of adults above the age of 55 in the Klang Valley suffer from osteoarthritis.
This condition, which involves degeneration of the joint cartilage, mainly affects the knees, hips, big toes and fingers.
The Malaysian Orthopaedic Association president said: “We pay more attention to heart and brain health, but we forget to look after our joints, even though we use them daily to move.
“When we no longer have mobility, it affects everyone around us.
“I had a patient whose knees were so painful, she resorted to scooting along on her butt to move around for five years before her family sought treatment.
“It pains me to see such cases.”
Many think osteoarthritis is an ageing condition that one has to learn to live with.
While age is indeed a risk factor, others include being female, genetics, obesity, a previous injury, or the presence of nodules, e.g. from gout.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis.
Management of this condition involves educating the patient, family members and caregivers on the disease, relieving pain and joint stiffness, improving joint mobility, limiting functional impairment, and improving quality of life.
Said Dr Suhail: “There are different guidelines on how and what to treat the patient with. “We start by prescribing NSAID plasters or gels, before moving to oral medications and injections.
“If everything fails, then surgical intervention to replace the joint is necessary.”
He added: “With the ageing group who might already have other co-morbidities and are on other drugs, we don’t want to give them further medications.
“This is where topical NSAIDs or patches are effective and lowers the risk of adverse effects such as kidney injuries.”
To reduce your risk of getting osteoarthritis, his advice is to wear proper footwear while exercising.
But more importantly, he says to listen to your joints – don’t abuse them and back off when there is pain.