updated 5/9/2007 6:37:05 PM ET 2007-05-09T22:37:05

The treatment options for patients with early Parkinson’s expanded Wednesday with the approval of a new drug in patch form — a first for medicines to treat symptoms of the disease.

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The once-daily Neupro patch contains a drug called rotigotine, which has not been sold before in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration said. The drug patch, made by Schwarz Pharma AG, is the first for the treatment of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease results from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine is crucial for the communication between cells that control muscle movement, which explains the trembling commonly seen in Parkinson’s patients.

Rotigotine works by activating dopamine receptors in the brain, mimicking the neurotransmitter’s effect.

The most common side effects for Neupro include skin reactions at the patch site, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and insomnia, the FDA said. Most are typical with this class of drugs.

Other potential safety concerns include sudden onset of sleep while engaged in activities such as driving or operating machinery, hallucinations and decreased blood pressure when standing up, the agency said.

An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s, with an additional 60,000 cases diagnosed each year.

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