The U.S. Food and Drug administration on Wednesday approved a new patch-drug, the first ever medicine to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Known by the name Neupro, the once-daily patch is manufactured by Schwarz Pharma AG. The patch contains a drug called rotigotine, which has not been sold before in the United States.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs the sufferer's motor skills and speech. It is characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, a slowing of physical movement and, in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement.
In a healthy brain, certain brain cells produce a chemical called dopamine, which helps the brain coordinate the body's movements while in the patients who suffer from Parkinson's, dopamine-producing brain cells cannot survive. Dopamine is crucial for the communication between cells that control muscle movement hence the sufferers of PD are often seen trembling.
Accordingly, the rotigotine present in the Neupro patch works by activating dopamine receptors in the brain, imitating the neurotransmitter's effect. The FDA determined the effectiveness of Neupro's by three studies that included 1,154 patients with early Parkinson's disease who were not taking other Parkinson's medications.
Rotigotine is a member of a class of drugs called dopamine agonists, which mimic dopamine's effects.
Other Parkinson's disease drugs are given orally. Those drugs are effective, but some patients experience a wearing-off effect at the end of each dose. The Parkinson's patch is designed to solve that problem.
However, the patch also has some side effects that include skin reactions at the patch site, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and insomnia. Also, the patient using this patch can experience a sudden onset of sleep while doing some activities like driving or operating machinery. Other side effects also include hallucinations and decreased blood pressure when standing up.
An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson's, with an additional 60,000 cases diagnosed each year.