Skin patch spells relief for Parkinson's patients

 Joseph Jankovic, M.D.

Joseph Jankovic, M.D.

A new skin-based method – a patch – to administer medicine to Parkinson's disease patients could deliver big benefits.

The new transdermal system, or skin-based therapy, that delivers the drug Rotigotine provides symptomatic relief to patients with the neurological disorder, according to a study completed at several national sites, including Baylor College of Medicine. Results were published in recent issues of the journals Neurology and Archives of Neurology.

Novel approach

"The Rotigotine patch is a major advance in the treatment of Parkinson's disease," said Joseph Jankovic, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson's Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic at BCM. "The drug itself is novel in that it stimulates dopamine receptors."

Rotigotine is a dopamine agonist, which boosts dopamine production in the brain (Parkinson's is caused by a decline of the neurotransmitter), and is well tolerated by early-stage patients, according to study results. The drug provides an alternative to levodopa, long considered the gold standard of Parkinson's disease treatment, which delivers diminishing results over time and is generally reserved for patients in the late stages of the disease. Levodopa (or L-dopa) also tends to cause a number of unpleasant side effects, including marked fluctuations in symptoms (like dyskinesias, or involuntary movements).

Rotigotine's transdermal delivery requires application only once a day and bypasses problems associated with ingesting medication, such as difficulty swallowing. Based on study results, the patch provides continuous stimulation of medication and causes fewer side effects than levodopa. The result is better control over symptoms, said Jankovic.

Symptoms may even out

"Compliance will certainly markedly improve," said Jankovic. "But more importantly, because of the continuous stimulation of the dopamine receptors, it is likely that the patients are going to have less fluctuation in their symptoms, which is one of the major problems associated with the treatment of Parkinson's disease."

Other studies in progress are testing Rotigotine's effectiveness in advanced stages of the disease.