An experimental skin patch that delivers the powerful migraine drug sumatriptan through the skin eased migraine symptoms in a late-stage study, offering a potential new way to treat migraine without taking pills, the specialty drugmaker NuPathe Inc., reported on Tuesday.

The patch, known as Zelrix, is designed to bring relief to people whose migraines are accompanied by nausea, which occurs in some 55 percent of migraine sufferers.

Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based NuPathe said in a statement that the patch showed a "statistically significant" improvement after two hours in pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound compared to people who used a placebo.

The trial included 530 patients. The most common side effects were itching, pain and tingling on the skin where the patch was applied. Most of these were mild and passed quickly.

Dr. Mark Pierce, chief scientific officer of the company, said the finding brings the company a step closer to being the first migraine patch on the market. NuPathe plans to apply for U.S. marketing approval in 2010.

Full results of the study will be released during the International Headache Society meeting in Philadelphia this September.

The results follow a dramatic showing in late May by MAP Pharmaceuticals Inc, whose inhaled migraine drug reached all four goals of a late stage clinical trial, sending shares up 150 percent.

That drug, known as Levadex, brought relief within 30 minutes and lasted 48 hours in a 792-patient trial.

Nearly 30 million Americans have migraines, an extremely painful, often throbbing type of headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.