An invention from Japan conquers the world

They contain pain relievers, hormones, and active pharmaceutical ingredients for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. And they are easy to apply and use. They are medical patches that release active pharmaceutical agents. 

Freudenberg provides stretchable nonwoven carriers for medical patches to manufacturers of transdermal products worldwide, including pharmaceutical companies in Taiwan, Singapore, Europe and the United States.  

They have been produced in Tokyo since 1991. A development originally conceived for the Japanese market has continued to spread to other regions thanks to its many advantages; the European market has been supplied since 2009.  

The segment is called transdermal patch products with active ingredients. The term is derived from the Greek word “derma” for skin and the Latin prefix “trans” for “crossing over.” 

Transdermal products have several layers 

  • separating films
  • active ingredient gels, water-or non-water-based 
  • carrier materials such as stretchable nonwovens

The growing market for transdermal products has revenues of about:


billion US dollars worldwide

“Topical” patches act locally, right at the target area on the body. The roughly 10 by 14 centimeter product adheres to the spot for 12 to 14 hours. One example: A thermal patch only applies heat where it is in direct contact with the skin. The key aspects for the patient: A topical patch should lie comfortably, have a soft feeling, and adjust easily to moving skin, especially if it is large. 

Another category is described as “passive.” It includes patches in which the medication reaches the bloodstream through the skin. This type is considered passive since the active pharmaceutical ingredient moves through the skin without the active support of electronic impulses. Patches for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson‘s patients are examples, as are those delivering nicotine or hormones into the body. 

The advantages: long-lasting, controlled, with no interactions

Once the patch is applied to the skin, taking the medicine on time is no longer a concern.

This is especially helpful with children or forgetful patients.  

With tablets, there is also a so-called “first pass” effect. That means that part of the ingredient taken orally never reaches the bloodstream but stays in the liver or intestines.

With a patch, on the other hand, a controlled delivery is possible over a fairly long timeframe ranging from 12 hours to four days. 

They allow a long-lasting, controlled delivery of the medicine through the skin.

With patches, there are no interactions with foods that can affect the efficacy or concentration of the medicine.  

Why Japan?

Historic and cultural reasons explain why these special Freudenberg nonwovens, mostly fabrics strengthened with waterjet treatments, are produced in Japan. The use of external healing methods is popular and well-recognized in that country.  

For instance, it is normal for someone with a headache to initially apply a cooling plaster to the  forehead. The Japanese don’t like pills and prefer powders, patches and alternative healing methods. Patches administer medicine to children suffering from asthma, while inhalers and sprays are the norm in Germany. Medicine in powdered form from healing plants, such as ginger and cinnamon, are very popular in Japan. 

Transdermal products were invented in Japan, which is perhaps one reason why local application of patches in particular is still so popular in Japan and throughout Asia today.

Yoshiki Matsuyama from Freudenberg in Tokyo, Japan

“Transdermal products were invented in Japan, which may be the reason that the local application of patches is so popular there and in all of Asia even today,” said Yoshiki Matsuyama, who works  at Freudenberg in Tokyo, Japan. “The transdermal product segment has now become one of Freudenberg‘s growth markets in Europe, the United States and China as well. Transdermal products, which enable medicine to be administered through the skin, are becoming more and more popular,” Matsuyama said.   

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