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GSK Plunges Into Patches, a Technology With a Troubled History

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) might want to proceed carefully with its €117 million investment in Intercell, maker of vaccine patches. Patches have a lousy history as a reliable delivery method for some medicines.

To be clear: There's no evidence that there is anything wrong with Intercell's products.

However, other companies have tried needle- and pill-free medicine delivery systems in the form of patches in the past and been burned, including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Watson (WPI), Shire (SHPGY) and Noven (NOVN).

J&J quietly stopped actively marketing its Ortho Evra birth control patch after the product delivered unexpectedly large doses of estrogen, causing fatal blood clots.

Watson's fentanyl pain control patch has been recalled at least six times. And Shire and Noven collaborate on the Daytrana ADHD patch, which has been recalled eight times.

GSK and Intercell said they would explore using patches for other vaccines in GSK's portfolio. GSK might want to make sure the product does what it says on the box before rolling it out through all available franchises.

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