If you talk about an adhesive bandage or sticking plaster today, one imagines the band-aid®s used for the treatment of many small injuries in daily life. This simple adhesive tape comes in many shapes, sizes and designs, and was introduced to the public in the past century.
In contrast, the old remedies known as plasters or bandages – latin: emplastrum – are one of the oldest drug formulations existing. The oldest sources date from 1000 b.C. and were used by the Egyptians, Romans and Greek or in other advanced civilizations for therapeutic purposes like the treatment of pain and migraines, liver diseases, cancer etc. Further, up to the middle of the 20th century these old adhesive bandages were made in pharmacies, e.g. diachylon (emplastrum plumbi). The matrix was compounded from lead salts of fatty acids, fat, resins, oil, wax, turpentine, and their mixtures. When heated, the bandages were self-adhesive. Some diachylons were said to soften hard swellings, and dissipate tumors. Since then the use of these bandages as drug formulations were restricted to a few indications, like rheumatic diseases, warts, or hornifications of skin.
As recently as the beginning of the 1980s new drug containing plasters, i.e. patches, for indications like motion sickness (scopolamine), angina pectoris (nitroglycerine), hormone replacement (estradiol) or hypertension (clonidine) were commercially launched. One precondition for this success was the development of modern transdermal therapeutic systems. They could prove on a scientific basis that drugs could permeate intact skin to generate therapeutic blood levels.