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New Hope For Parkinson's

When actor Michael J. Fox testified before Congress about his ParkinsonÂ's disease last month, he highlighted the urgent need for newer and better medicines to battle the affliction.

Â"It is a constant balancing act," said Fox. "Too little medicine causes tremors and stiffness, too much medicine produces uncontrollable movement and slurring. And far too often Parkinson's patients wait and wait --as I am right now-- for the medicines to kick in.Â"

Actor Michael J. Fox testified before Congress in September

Since then, the Food and Drug administration has approved a drug that will help Parkinson patients have better control over the symptoms Fox described and displayed in his testimony, reports CBS This MorningÂ's Health Contributor Dr. Emily Senay. The drug will help Fox and others maintain their motor functions for a longer period of time.

Called Comtan, the new drug is taken along with leading Parkinson drug Levodopa. Comtan acts as a shield to Levodopa as it travels to the brain, allowing more of the medication to reach its target. It also helps curtail side effects like sudden involuntary movements as the Levodopa wears off.

Parkinson's disease is a degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and these drugs do not prevent that. But the combination of drugs will help keep Parkinson's patients healthier for a longer time.

Comtan should help immediately but also in the long run. Doctors hope theyÂ'll be able to prescribe less Levodopa which means patients can take it for a longer time before it loses its effectiveness. Advanced ParkinsonÂ's doesnÂ't respond to Levodopa, and this combination should help delay that.