‘Cue Band’ to counter drooling enrolling patients for at-home testing

Wearable device, supported by Parkinson's UK, as new way of treating symptom

Patricia Inácio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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Parkinson’s UK is continuing to support work into a wearable device — called Cue Band — aiming to lessen chronic sialorrhea, the excessive drooling that often accompanies Parkinson’s disease.

Having helped with Cue Band’s early development, the nonprofit is funding a planned test of the device’s at-home use in up to 3,000 Parkinson’s patients.

Cue Band is a wearable wristband, similar to a smartwatch, that delivers a vibration ‘cue’ to instruct a patient to swallow. As such, it aims to counter drooling without the need for oral medications like glycopyrronium bromide, or for botox injections into the salivary gland that generally have to be repeated every three months and can cause dry mouth.

“Cue Band is all about improving the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s disease but without the need for further medication, which can often have unpleasant side effects,” Kyle Montague, PhD, an associate professor at the Northumbria University, said in a university press release.

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Cue Band seen as potential non-drug alternative for Parkinson’s drooling

Montague and other scientists at Northumbria and Newcastle University, both in the U.K., joined by those at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, have been working to develop the device. Parkinson’s UK support comes through a grant scheme it started three years ago to promote non-drug treatments of disease symptoms.

“Novel technologies have the potential of delivering improvements in quality of life … in a shorter time frame than developing new drugs, which can take decades,” said David Dexter, associate director of research at Parkinson’s UK. “We were excited to fund the Cue Band trial being run by Dr Montague, particularly since this cheap device tackles drooling which is a major problem in Parkinson’s. We look forward to results from this clinical study.”

Cue Band is estimated to cost about £30 (roughly $36).

The device is linked to a smartphone mobile application, the Cue Band app, that allows patients to set up a personalized, seven-day schedule of cues. This includes the time to start and stop cuing, as well as its intensity and type — either mobile vibration, audio, or band vibration. Once the weekly cue schedule has been put in place, the app is no longer necessary.

The app, a companion device to the Cue Band wearable, also is used to create reports of daily drooling symptoms, and to adjust cue schedules and cuing intensity or types.

“The prompting intervals and frequency of the cues can be easily adjusted and the smartphone app allows patients to also record their symptoms so they can monitor any changes in their symptoms,” said Luís Carvalho, a project researcher at Northumbria University.

“The device is capable of recording other data, including monitoring heartrate and sleep patterns, giving us a great overall picture of a patient’s health,” Carvalho added.

The clinical trial will test the Cue Band in about 3,000 people with Parkinson’s. Enrollment runs through April 30, and patients are invited to download the Cue Band app and join the study.

Around 2,700 patients will receive the wristband to use daily as they choose, and their data will be collected anonymously. These people can also give feedback and suggestions through the mobile app.

Another 300 patients will be assigned to use the smartphone app alone (150 patients) or the Cue Band (150 patients) for three weeks. After this they switch places, with those using the app moving to the Cue Band and vice versa, for another three weeks.

Participants will be asked to register their symptoms and experiences each day throughout the study.

A subgroup of patients may enter a subsequent phase, in which they will use neither intervention for three weeks. Later, participants will provide feedback about their experience and preferences regarding both interventions.

Excessive drooling is typically caused by difficulty controlling muscles in the face and mouth, which can make it difficult to swallow or to keep saliva inside the mouth.

“Drooling is a major problem for people with Parkinson’s and can be very embarrassing, potentially restricting their social life,” said Richard Walker, MD, a consultant physician at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University professor. “This discreet technology could make a major difference and we are keen the people with Parkinson’s themselves will help us drive the research forward.”

Parkinson’s UK support for the device’s development is about £198,600, according to a Cue Band webpage.