A new French study showed that the use of a continuous injection device to combat the symptoms of “Parkinson’s disease” similar to insulin pumps for diabetics, constitutes a treatment that guarantees encouraging long-term results in some people whose disease has reached advanced stages.
One of the authors of the study, published Friday in the journal “NPG Parkinson’s Days”, neurologist Emmanuel Flaman-Rose, explained that “the quality of life stabilizes and the motor fluctuations (ie alternating improvement and return of symptoms) improve after two years” in the patients concerned.
But he explained that this does not apply to all Parkinson’s patients.
He said, “Two cases result from the development of the disease, in one of which its signs, such as tremor, stiffness and slowness, do not respond to treatments” with swallowable tablets.
In the other case, “the treatments remain effective, but there are big differences during the day: when people take their pills they get better. Then after its effect wears off, their condition recedes, and so on. For these patients, continuous treatment is a good option,” the specialist explains.
For this purpose, a device called “apomorphine pump” is used, which the patient carries around the clock or during the day, and he can put it in his pocket, or attach it to his belt or around his neck, or otherwise, it injects it with the treatment automatically.
Professor Flaman-Rose noted that the device “is like an insulin pump for diabetes”. He explained that “sugar is very high in diabetes, so it is reduced. In Parkinson’s disease, dopamine (a molecule found in the brain) is very low and the necessary amount is constantly supplied.”
He added, “When a patient takes a pill, it causes a sudden rise (of dopamine) in the brain, and then it falls back, and this causes fluctuations. With continued treatment, it is much closer to what happens naturally.”
“The importance of the study lies in the fact that it shows that a certain number of patients can benefit from this treatment, whose use is still limited,” said the neurologist, who works at the Pettier Salpetriere Hospital in the French capital, Paris.
Parkinson’s disease is considered a neurodegenerative disease, and as it progresses, the risk of inability to self-reliance increases due to motor and cognitive complications that can lead to dementia.
In this study, researchers followed the progression of 110 advanced-stage patients over a two-year period who were treated with apomorphine pump. The study concluded that the treatment is especially beneficial for patients who were already suffering from motor fluctuations before starting the treatment.
Professor Flaman-Rose said: “It is a remarkable result of a degenerative disease, since over a period of two years in an advanced stage, we would rather expect a worsening of the condition.”
However, he made sure to make it clear, for the sake of accuracy, that “it is not a treatment that cures the signs that were not treated before, but it can contribute to avoiding fluctuations when another treatment achieves a result.” In addition, it “does not slow down the progression of the disease, but only treats the symptoms.”
Finally, a third of the patients in the study discontinued the treatment, “either because they had side effects, or because it did not achieve the desired result sufficiently, or to see if it improved patients’ sleep, and another to see if it should be used without waiting for the disease to reach advanced stage.