New treatment tested for Parkinson's symptoms

July 5, 2012 8:39:15 PM PDT
A new treatment is being tested to manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and so far it is showing promising results.

There is no place Bob Van Housen would rather be than on the shore with his grandkids.

12 years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. As it progressed, his symptoms got worse, so he started taking a drug called Levadopa every few hours just to be able to walk and talk.

"We would have a spike where I'd feel pretty good, then all of a sudden I'd fall off that cliff then I'd be not so good," Bob said. "Very suddenly, the medicine would stop handling the symptoms."

About year ago, Bob enrolled in a clinical trial at Cleveland Clinic to test a new, more consistent way to deliver a gel form of the same medication.

"A tube is inserted in the stomach, but the tube ends in the small intestines where the medications and also our food, nutrients are absorbed, so the Levadopa liquid gel is pumped continuously from an outside source," said Dr. Hubert Fernandez.

His wife Carole loads the pump with a new cartridge of gel every morning and it's not long before Bob can walk and even run. The pump supplies a more steady flow of medicine so he doesn't experience a rollercoaster of symptoms during the day.

Bob has to wear the pump in a harness around his neck so it can be bothersome. It's not a cure for the disease, nor will it slow down the progression, but Carole says it is helping.

"It isn't a miracle, and it isn't that he has no symptoms but certainly, my goodness I know our quality of life is better," said Bob.

The most common side effect with this treatment is stomach pain.

Again the pump is still being tested so it is not available for everyone yet, but Dr. Fernandez says they will be submitting it to the FDA for approval soon.