A novel treatment for Parkinson’s disease has been listed on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, bringing it within reach of tens of thousands of Australian patients.
The new treatment consists of a once-daily patch that provides continuous delivery of dopamine, designed to help patients control their symptoms over 24 hours.
Dopamine is normally produced by cells in the brain, which gradually die or become impaired in sufferers of Parkinson’s.
As the central nervous system is affected, symptoms can include voluntary tremor, stiffness, slow movement and loss of balance.
More than 64,000 Australians have the disease — with about 30 diagnosed every day. There is currently no cure.
Clinical neuroscientist Peter Silburn from the University of Queensland said the government’s decision to subsidise the patch is an important advance.
While there are treatments available to help manage symptoms, Silburn said some patients experience a significant decline in their motor function in between doses, called “off” periods.
“A major challenge in treating Parkinson’s is reducing these ‘ off’ periods, particularly upon awakening,” said Silburn.
The 24-hour patch may reduce the severity and duration of off- periods, but also enhance the quality of “on” states when used with existing medications, he added.
A Sydney husband and father, Mark, 42, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 12 years ago, said his mobility was extremely reduced during off-periods at night between doses of medication.
“When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, my main concern was that she would go into labour in the early hours of the morning and I wouldn’t be able to move, either to help her or to drive to the hospital,” Mark said.
“Fortunately that didn’t occur, but managing those off-periods is something I’ve always been conscious of and tried to develop strategies to deal with,” he added.