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What Is the Flector Patch (Diclofenac Patch)?

Topical Alternative to Oral Diclofenac

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Updated September 25, 2012

Flector Patch (Diclofenac Patch) Relieves Acute Pain

The Flector patch is a topical formulation available as a skin patch that contains 1.3% diclofenac epolamine (180 mg. of diclofenac epolamine - a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medication). The patch, which measures approximately 4 inches by 5 1/2 inches, is an alternative to the oral formulation of diclofenac (Voltaren) and the topical gel formulation (Voltaren gel).

When Did the Flector (Diclofenac) Patch Become Available?

The Flector (diclofenac) patch was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on January 31, 2007, and marketed in January 2008. It is marketed in the United States by Alpharma. The Flector patch was introduced in Switzerland in 1993. Currently, the patch is approved in 43 countries.

What Are the Indications for Flector Patch?

The Flector patch was approved to treat acute pain due to minor strains, sprains and contusions. It is primarily recommended for and used by patients who cannot tolerate oral diclofenac. One Flector patch is applied twice daily (every twelve hours).

Studies have shown topical diclofenac formulations (gels, patches, plasters) are superior or equivalent to oral diclofenac formulations. Topical diclofenac significantly reduced pain and morning stiffness in knee osteoarthritis patients while improving physical function. Researchers concluded topical diclofenac is a safe and practical alternative for osteoarthritis of the knee as well as soft tissue or sports injury.

Who Should Not Use the Flector Patch?

The Flector patch is not an appropriate treatment for everyone. The patch should not be used by:

  • patients allergic to diclofenac, aspirin or other NSAIDs
  • patients who just had or will be having a coronary artery bypass graft

Be aware that all of the warnings for cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks that exist on the labels of all NSAIDs are included on topical diclofenac formulations too. Concomitant use of the diclofenac patch and oral diclofenac may increase adverse effects associated with NSAIDs.

Also, the use of other topical products (lotions, sunscreens, cosmetics, medications) on the same skin site as the patch is not recommended, because it could affect absorption and reduce tolerability of the diclofenac patch.

With regard to pediatric patients, the safety and effectiveness of the Flector or diclofenac patch has not been confirmed. Drawing conclusions about the safety and effectiveness in patients older than 65 was also not confirmed due to the insufficient numbers available.

Flector (Diclofenac) Patch Is Nonformulary

Some insurance companies list diclofenac patches as "nonpreferred" and "nonformulary." The diclofenac patch is expensive compared to its oral counterpart. Insurance companies would prefer you use something less expensive but just as effective. It is the patient who cannot use the cheaper alternatives that is an appropriate candidate for the diclofenac patch.

What Possible Side Effects Are Associated with Diclofenac Patch?

Signs of an allergic reaction - including hives and the swelling of the face, lips, tongue and throat - require emergency assistance. Otherwise, the risk of serious side effects is low for the diclofenac patch. If diclofenac is absorbed by the blood, you may experience certain side effects, such as:

  • chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, slurred speech
  • black, bloody or tarry stools
  • bloody coughs
  • swelling and rapid weight gain
  • fever, sore throat, headache, peeling red skin rash
  • nausea and stomach pain

What Drugs May Interact With the Flector Patch?

Certain drugs that you may already be taking can interact with the Flector (diclofenac) patch, such as coumadin, cyclosporine, lithium, methotrexate, a diuretic, steroids and ACE inhibitors.

Point to Remember

While the Flector patch is not for everyone, it may be an option for you. Consult with your doctor and discuss all of your treatment options.

Sources:

Topical diclofenac: clinical effectiveness and current uses in osteoarthritis of the knee and soft tissue injuries. Banning, Maggi. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, Volume 9, Number 16, November 2008, pp. 2921-2929(9).
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/apl/eop/2008/00000009/00000016/art00016

Topical diclofenac patch in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. March-April 2003. Bruhlmann P, et al.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12747273/

Flector Patch. Drugs.com. 3/11/2008.
http://www.drugs.com/mtm/flector-patch.html

RegenceRx. Flector Patch. June 2008.
http://www.regencerx.com/docs/physicianRx/flector0608.pdf

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