Parkinson's disease drug ban after deaths

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The Independent Online
A DRUG that is used to treat thousands of people suffering from Parkinson's disease was withdrawn by its manufacturer last night after three patients taking it died.

The multinational pharmaceutical company Roche said that the drug, Tasmar, had been taken off the market in Britain and the rest of the European Union until further notice at the request of the European Commission.

The firm said: "Evolving safety information about the anti-Parkinson's drug, Tasmar, has led Roche to revise recommendations to physicians on the appropriate use of the drug.

"Cases of rare and adverse events, including three fatal cases of unpredictable fulminant hepatitis, have been reported."

Parkinson's disease is a chronic and increasingly debilitating disease that afflicts almost 2 million people. There are only a limited number of treatments available. Tasmar, which was launched in November last year, is taken by 100,000 people in 38 countries.

A spokesman for the Parkinson's Disease Society warned the 5,000 sufferers in the UK who are taking the drug that they should not panic or stop taking it suddenly.

"We would urge people to consult their doctor as soon as possible and not to just stop using it as there could be adverse affects," he said.

He added that Tasmar was often taken in conjunction with another drug, Levodopa, and by stopping one the balance of treatment could be thrown off.

"We are pleased that the drug company has taken such prompt action but it also has to be said that many people do benefit from taking Tasmar," he said.

Dr John Drake, medical group manager for Roche, said the deaths had occurred in Switzerland, Canada and the US, where Tasmar was still available.

"Patients should not panic. These cases are pretty rare and patients on treatment at the moment who are carefully monitored should not be at risk at all."

A Tasmar helpline, staffed by health professionals, has been set up on 0800 328 3202.