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New Pump Can Give Parkinson's Patients a Pill-Free Life

Published: 09/01/2015

For decades, patients who have Parkinson's disease have had to rely on medications to treat the symptoms commonly associated with the movement disorder:

  • Abnormal or involuntary movements.
  • Slow or reduced movements.
Rajesh Pahwa, MD, describes the medicinal treatment of Parkinson's disease like a roller coaster. "Patients take the medicine. They're better. Then they get worse. They take another pill, they get better. It's constantly up and down."

Frankie Sumners, a retired teacher from Westmoreland, Kan., who was diagnosed at age 48, used to take levodopa to help manage her symptoms. After time, as with most patients, she found that it did not provide consistent results throughout the day.

Duopa provides an infusion of medicine to help Parkinson's disease patients break free from the daily pill roller coaster"You start out, the medicines work pretty well," she said. "But it got to the point where I was taking a handful of medicine all day. Every two or three hours. That's a burden to your life."

Recently, Dr. Pahwa helped Sumners break free of relying on medication for her symptoms when she became the third person in the country to receive a new pump, Duopa, which has been approved by the FDA to treat Parkinson's disease.

Duopa is an infusion of levodopa that is supplied directly into the small intestines through the pump. The infusion throughout the day helps better control the symptoms, eliminating the roller coaster effect of the pill version.

"It's not a cure for Parkinson's, but it is a help to people who have Parkinson's," Sumners said. "It improves your quality of life, in my opinion, and that's very comforting to know."

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