Scopoderm patches are used to reduce travel sickness. A Scopoderm patch is applied to the hairless area of skin just behind the ear 5-6 hours before travel. The patch is kept in place during the journey. At the end of the journey the patch is removed. Each patch is active for up to 3 days.
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How Scopoderm works
Scopoderm patches contain the active ingredient hyoscine. Small amounts of hyoscine are absorbed through the skin continuously whilst the Scopoderm patch is in place.
The exact mechanism of action of hyoscine is not fully understood. It works on central nervous system and also on the autonomic nervous system. Nausea and vomiting are both reduced.
Hyoscine is also available in tablet form for the treatment of travel sickness under the trade name of Kwells. Scopoderm patches deliver hyoscine into the circulation in more controlled way than tablets. Scopoderm patches can be kept in place for up to three days during which a continuous small amount of hyoscine is absorbed into the circulation. Hyoscine reaches a steady level in the blood about 6 hours after a Scopoderm patch is applied.
Alternatives to Scopoderm
The other commonly used alternative treatment for travel sickness is Promethazine. Promethazine is available under various trade names including Avomine and is also supplied with an online prescription from Dr Fox.
Side effects and cautions
Side effects of hyoscine are unlikely at the low dose released from Scopoderm patches. However, drowsiness, blurred vision, restlessness and disorientation have been seen. People with pre-existing glaucoma, bladder obstruction or a history of bowel obstruction should not take Scopoderm. If side effects occur the patch should be removed.
A full list of the side effects of Scopoderm patches and a list of significant interactions can be found at the Summary of Product Characteristics for Scopoderm.
Localised skin irritation at the site a patch is applied is sometimes seen. Scopoderm patches should not be applied at the same site one after the other. New patches should be applied behind alternate ears. Small amounts of the active ingredient remain in the circulation for up to 12 hours after the patches are removed
There is a small risk the active ingredient, hyoscine, can be transferred from fingers to the eyes by rubbing. Hyoscine can cause the pupils to dilate causing blurring of vision and in people susceptible the dilation of the pupils can precipitate a glaucoma attack. Hand washing after applying a Scopoderm patch is recommended.
The patch and skin is best kept dry. Wetting does not prevent patches from working although it makes the patch more likely to become detached. Detached patches should be replaced behind the opposite ear.
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Unlicensed use of Scopoderm
The travel sickness scopoderm patch is sometimes prescribed by specialist to reduce drooling and in some cases to reduce muscle spasm and agitation in patients with cerebral palsy. This use is unlicensed; meaning the regulatory authorities have not been asked or have not approved the use of Scopoderm patches for this purpose.