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New Parkinson’s disease treatment changes Vt. patient’s life

A new treatment is giving Americans with Parkinson’s disease their mobility back. One of the first patients is a Vermonter who says the medical discovery has changed her life.

Cassie Blanchard loved to play with her grandchildren, build snowmen and be that hip grandma. When Parkinson’s started to take hold of her life, she opted for a radical new treatment and she says she’s glad she did. Blanchard has her mobility back.

Not long ago, she walked her daughter to the bus and couldn’t get home.

“I ended up stuck on a bridge and I couldn’t get back home. Some nice man came by and helped me get back home,” she said.

At 36, this Randolph mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. More than 1 million others in the U.S. live with it, as well. As the years went by, her oral medication was less and less effective. She was taking the medication most Parkinson’s patients use, but when a pill wears off many patients can barely move.

“You then have this yin and yang where at times you’re moving well, but moving too much, and at other times you’re completely immobile,” said Dr. James Boyd of the UVM Medical Center.

Boyd now has an option for patients whose pills aren’t helping and who don’t want brain surgery. Blanchard is one of the first patients in America to take Duopa, a gel medicine pumped into the stomach continuously throughout the day that helps the brain and body work together.

“I’ve got me back. I’m able to do things again,” said Blanchard.

Boyd was one of several doctors to run clinical trials on the drug. The Food and Drug Administration approved the procedure earlier this year, where through surgery a tube is inserted into the patient’s abdomen.

“Anywhere along the way if you have a time where it seems like your medicine is running out, you press this extra dose button,” said Boyd.

Now, when Cassie Blanchard gets low on her meds the pump gives more. That’s made times with her husband and grandchildren so much more enjoyable.

Blanchard can take the drug for the rest of her life, but some symptoms are not affected by the new treatment. Any Parkinson’s patient could be a candidate.

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