Bob Van Housen is one of a million people in the United States living with Parkinson’s disease. He has always been active, but Parkinson’s disease has forced him to slow down. Now, Bob is part of a new study of a unique treatment that controls symptoms by pumping medicated gel into his small intestine.
Twelve years ago, Bob was diagnosed. As the disease progressed, his symptoms did too. Bob and his wife, Carole, even stopped traveling because of the disease. To relieve symptoms, Bob would take a pill called levadopa every few hours just to be able 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 and not be so good,” Bob says.
Carole adds, “Very suddenly, the medicine would stop handling the symptoms.”
About a year ago, Bob enrolled in a trial at Cleveland Clinic to test a new, more consistent way to deliver a gel form of the same medication he was already using.
“A tube is inserted in the stomach, but the tube ends in the small intestines, where the medication, and also our food and nutrients, are absorbed. So the levadopa liquid gel is pumped continuously from an outside source,” Dr. Fernandez says.
To help Bob, Carole loads the pump with a new cartridge of gel every morning, and it’s not long before Bob can walk, and even run. Since the pump supplies a more steady flow of medicine, he doesn’t experience a rollercoaster of symptoms during the day.
Bob says his symptom control is more predictable, which gives him better days. “We can project better how I’m gonna feel and I’m gonna act and we can plan.”
The pump is not a cure for Parkinson’s disease and doesn’t stop the progression, but helps manage the symptoms in a more effective way. Dr. Fernandez says the most common side effect is stomach pain.
The pump is still considered experimental so it’s not available for general use, but Dr. Fernandez expects it will be submitted to the FDA for approval in the near future.