An inhaled formulation of apomorphine, developed by UK company Vectura, has been shown to be effective in treating ‘off’ episodes in Parkinson’s disease in a Phase II study.

And with the proof-of-principle study now in place, Vectura said it would use the proceeds of its recent share placing to take the project into late-stage development.

Although treatment of Parkinson’s disease with drugs such as levodopa can be effective in the early stages, as the disease progresses breakthrough motor symptoms – such as tremors and muscle rigidity – can occur. These ‘off’ periods tend to become more severe and frequent as the drugs used to treat Parkinson’s gradually lose their ability to control the disease. Vectura’s answer is to use its inhaled apomorphine – VR040 - as an on-demand, rescue therapy for ‘off’ episodes.

The Phase II study involved 24 patients in whom an off episode was induced under controlled conditions by withdrawing their usual Parkinson’s medication. They were given one or two doses of VR040 – at a range of dosage strengths – or placebo and the time to recovery was noted.

In most cases the recovery was seen in 10 to 18 minutes with inhaled apomorphine, with the effect lasting up to an hour. Five of the patients on VR040 converted to a full ‘on’ state, compared to just one in the placebo group.

The study “bodes well for future clinical development, which will now focus on determining optimal titrated doses of VR040,”said Vectura chief executive Chris Blackwell.