A leading Parkinson’s charity has called for more awareness among pharmacists about the impact that changing from a branded to a generic medication for the disease can have on patients, warning that sudden switches caused by shortages can have detrimental effects.

Manufacturing differences between branded and generic products could affect the release rate of the drug, which could cause potentially significant deterioration in patients with Parkinson’s, the charity suggested.

Community pharmacist Stephanie Bancroft, who is the chair of the Parkinson’s Disease Specialist Pharmacy Network, said that it was ‘essential’ that pharmacists were aware of the potentially detrimental impact of switching to a different product, and should check that patients have been prescribed the same product they have had previously.

‘It is always best to stick to the same product to avoid any fluctuations in effectiveness. This could be by the patient always requesting Sinemet is prescribed or by asking their pharmacist to source the generic from the same manufacturer every time, if possible,’ Ms Bancroft said.

‘We want to make sure that pharmacists are aware of this incredibly important issue and check with patients before handing them medication which could potentially make them very ill,’ she added.

She also said that prescribers should not make changes to Parkinson’s medication without discussion with a specialist and the patient.

Dr Rowan Wathes, associate director of the Parkinson’s Excellence Network at Parkinson’s UK, described it as ‘vitally important’ for prescribers to specify the Parkinson’s medication brand or generic manufacturer on prescriptions for people with Parkinson’s.

‘Changes to brands or manufacturers can trigger a significant deterioration of symptoms,’ she added.

Barrie Smith, a 65-year-old living with Parkinson’s, said that his symptoms worsened when his GP practice altered his medication.

He said: ‘I went from being totally independent to having to have my food cut up for me as I was throwing it everywhere and I needed help with getting dressed. I also had a visible tremor which I didn’t have before. My speech had slowed and I was slower in thinking.

‘It’s a shock when you have lived with something for so long and you have been successfully managing it.’

Mr Smith, who is a DJ for Radio Parkies, a channel specifically for people with Parkinson’s, shared what had happened on his radio show and found that numerous listeners, including his co-presenter, had experienced similar issues after changing medication.

He said that the feels that he is unlikely to recover the deterioration caused by the swap.

He added: ‘We know it's degenerative and will get worse but things like this interruption to a medication regime, that has worked for years and has kept me pretty stable, has caused mayhem. That change has been like a kick in the head.’

Parkinson’s UK has released a free learning pathway to help pharmacy professionals update their knowledge of the disease.