You may know some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. There are body tremors, slow body movements, and other motor problems. Half of these patients develop psychosis, normally in the later stages of the disease. Sometimes it is a side effect from drugs to improve motor skills. While treating the muscle rigidity and walking difficulties, the nonmotor problems are becoming harder to manage.
Some delusions remain mild or occur infrequently, yet others are scary and can overwhelm caregivers. A patient may think that strangers or government authorities are after them, becoming so agitated that they try to run away from their homes or accuse family members of helping out the “bad people.” They see non-existent rats in their homes or people in a tree outside their window who are not there.
Antipsychotic drugs for schizophrenia don’t help because they block dopamine in the brain, the same thing that Parkinson’s does. Researchers looked for a chemical compound to treat psychosis without impairing motor skills. Acadia Pharmaceuticals created a solution called pimavanserin in 2001. After 15 years, the product finally made it to market as the brand name Nuplazid. It was approved by the FDA last year. A one-month supply costs $1,950, and insurance sometimes covers most of that. Acadia offers a discount to those who do not have insurance. One in four patients do not improve after taking the drug, so research for more options continues. Half of those who improve have a dramatic improvement.
Patient Clyde Hill had reduced mobility and numerous falls due to his Parkinson’s, leading him to retire. Deep brain stimulation surgery helped for several years. The progressing disease put him into a wheelchair and the delusions began. He no longer remembered names and became combative. After four weeks on this new drug, he had a miraculous turnaround, remembering names of all family members and appeared happy again.
McGuire, Donna. “New drug provides long-awaited breakthrough for Parkinson’s psychosis.” Health & Fitness. The Kansas City Star, 10 Apr 2017. Web. 11 Apr 2017.