Parkinson’s patients to benefit from 24-hour wearable drug pump

A wearable drug pump that delivers medication to Parkinson’s patients 24 hours a day to better manage their symptoms is being rolled out on the NHS later this month.

The treatment option means many patients will no longer have to take multiple tablets, which can top 20 a day in some cases.

The infusion, known as foslevodopa-foscarbidopa, is administered through a cannula under the skin and is controlled by a small automatic pump worn by patients 24 hours a day.

It will help ease movement-related symptoms in Parkinson’s patients who are no longer responding to oral medication.

James Palmer, NHS England’s medical director for specialised services, described the move as “great news” for those “living with an often difficult and debilitating condition”.

He added: “This important therapy will now offer a vital new option on the NHS for those who aren’t suitable for other treatments such as deep brain stimulation, and we hope it will help nearly a thousand patients to manage their symptoms more effectively and go about their day with a better quality of life.”

According to Parkinson’s UK, about 153,000 people in the UK are living with the disease.

An estimated one in 37 people will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime.

John Whipps, a Parkinson's patient who took part in trials for foslevodopa-foscarbidopa, a wearable drug pump that delivers medication over 24 hours.
John Whipps (right) a Parkinson’s patient who took part in the drug pump trial, pictured with wife Sue (NHS England/PA)

She added that foslevodopa–foscarbidopa “could be a life-changing option” for some patients.

“There are very few advanced treatments for the condition, so we are delighted another one is available,” Ms Cockram said.

“The infusion means people will be able to better manage their symptoms and could potentially have a big impact on families’ lives.

“It won’t be suitable for everybody though, and people with Parkinson’s should speak to their consultant or Parkinson’s nurse to see whether it’s an option for them.”

Patients who take multiple tablets to manage Parkinson’s symptoms have described how they often struggle as the day goes on.

Phil, 52, from Cornwall, took part in the clinical trial for foslevodopa–foscarbidopa.

“At night, I was normally not able to turn over in bed, or get up for the toilet, and if I did manage it, I was at risk of falls.

“Whilst wearing the pump, it delivered the drug whilst I was sleeping, enabling me to turn over at night, and get up for the toilet which made a huge difference at night. As a result, I slept much better.”

John Whipps, 70, from Cornwall, also took part. He said the pump is “is like chalk and cheese” compared to other treatments.

“Before this, I was on nearly 20 tablets a day just for my Parkinson’s symptom control, and then all the other tablets on top of that,” he added.

“And I would frequently wake in the middle of the night with internal tremors and take more tablets, but this pump just keeps running through the night.

“I couldn’t plan to do anything, as you don’t know if you’re going to have an off day and need to stay at home.

“So this pump has made life much more plan-able. It’s just one pump change a day you need to factor in, compared to the constant regime of tablets at different times a day.”

Foslevodopa–foscarbidopa will be rolled out on the NHS in England from February 27, with almost 1,000 patients expected to benefit.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said it “reinforces the NHS’s collective ability to tackle the big medical challenges of our time and is evidence of the government’s commitment to using technology to deliver faster, simpler and fairer health outcomes for all.”

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