Rajesh Pahwa from the University of Kansas Medical Center: Addressing an Unmet Need in Psychosis for Parkinson's Patients

Patients with Parkinson's Disease face a wide range of challenges that can extend to their caregivers. One newly studied area in this field is psychosis for this patient population and what can be done to help them.

Patients with Parkinson's Disease face a wide range of challenges that can extend to their caregivers. One newly studied area in this field is psychosis for this patient population and what can be done to help them.

Rajesh Pahwa, MD, of the University of Kansas Medical Center, discussed how psychosis in Parkinson's disease patients needs to be addressed during the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Vancouver.

Pahwa said that over the last few years, doctors have realized one of the biggest challenges of the treatments of Parkinson' s has not just been the motor side of it, such as tremors, but the Parkinson's disease (PD) psychosis. This psychosis could come in the form of delusions, hallucinations or accusations from the patient that a loved one is cheating or stealing money, for example.

"We do not have any FDA-approved medication for PD psychosis," Pahwa said.

Once a patient is diagnosed, a lot of other concerns come up, he said. That patient is much more likely to end up in the emergency room, hospital or the nursing home, and have much higher mortality rates than PD patients without the psychosis. "It also increases the caregiver burden."

It is not only a disorder impacting the patient but the caregiver, he said.

Psychosis could be because of the treatment, but also from the underlying disease of Parkinson's itself, he said.

Pahwa said treatments that might be used for schizophrenia, for example, would not be conducive to a PD psychosis treatment, often due because of the impact of dopamine. But also, there are no drugs FDA-approved to do so, and only recently have researchers realized that PD treatments focus on the motor-based issues of the disease and not the psychosis.