About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year. It is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that can make daily activities difficult. But now researchers are trying out what looks like a breath strip of medicine that could make patients' lives easier.
Playing the flute used to be easy for Helen Michaelson, but now Parkinson's disease has robbed her of her rhythm. Just sitting still is a struggle.
"When I get nervous or, ya know, I mean, my hands. It really affects everything," Michaelson said.
The former school band director and teacher of the year now takes medicine five times a day. But when it starts to wear off, these so called "off episodes" can be problematic.
"Sometimes you get so overwhelmed as far as being tired. You just can't go anymore," she said.
A new kind of drug therapy is being tested that could help Helen with the "off episodes." The drug is hidden in this blue strip. Patients put it under their tongue for two minutes. Medicine is absorbed into the mucus of the mouth, then it goes into the bloodstream.
"It's called a dopamine agonist because it acts like dopamine in the brain," said Dr. Robert Hauser, professor of neurology at University of South Florida.
Dr. Hauser said the strip of medicine can rescue a patient stuck in a debilitating episode of immobility.
"It's thought that the strip should provide benefit within 20 to 30 minutes. That's still under evaluation and it's thought that it may last 60 to 90 minutes. Again, that's still under evaluation," Dr. Hauser said.
It's a bridge until Helen's next oral medication kicks in.
This new strip of medicine is not approved by the FDA yet. It's in clinical trials right now and could be available to the public in two to three years.
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