skin patch, transdermal patch, or transdermal delivery system, adhesive patch used to deliver a controlled dose of a drug through the skin over a period of time. A skin patch uses a special membrane to control the rate at which the liquid drug contained in the reservoir within the patch can pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. Some drugs must be combined with substances, such as alcohol, that increase their ability to penetrate the skin in order to be used in a skin patch. Drugs administered through skin patches include scopolamine (for motion sickness), nicotine (for quitting smoking), estrogen (for menopause and to prevent osteoporosis after menopause), nitroglycerin (for angina), and lidocaine to relieve the pain of shingles (herpes zoster). Molecules of insulin and many other substances, however, are too large to pass through the skin.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.