New Drugs Show Promise Against Parkinson’s Disease

Tuesday, 19 Mar 2013 04:44 PM

By Nick Tate

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A trio of studies released this week found three mental-health drugs offer significant promise in the treatment of various symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients.
 
The research, presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th annual meeting in San Diego, represents significant progress being made in treatments for Parkinson’s patients with blood pressure problems, those who have taken the main drug for Parkinson’s for a long time and are finding it less effective, and individuals whose symptoms are not well-controlled by their main drugs
 
“All of these treatments are promising news for people with Parkinson’s disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease,” said Robert A. Hauser, M.D., of the University of South Florida in Tampa and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, who helped conduct all three studies.

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The first of Hauser’s studies found the drug droxidopa helps moderate the rapid drop in blood pressure that people with Parkinson’s can experience when standing up, which can lead to dizziness, fainting, and falls. The problem, which affects about 18 percent of patients, occurs because the autonomic nervous system fails to respond to changes in posture by releasing enough of the chemical norepinephrine.

In the 225-patient study, Hauser’s team found droxidopa, which converts to norepinephrine in the body, was responsible for a two-fold decrease in the symptoms of dizziness and lightheadedness in patients who took it.
 
The second study examined the effectiveness of a new drug for “wearing-off” that occurs with people who have been taking levodopa for long periods of time. As each dose wears off, patients experience longer periods of time where the motor symptoms do not respond to levodopa. For the study, patients treated with the drug tozadenant, in addition to levodopa, experienced less “off” time per day.
 
The third study involved 321 people with early Parkinson’s disease whose symptoms were not well-controlled by medication. For 18 weeks, the participants took either the drug rasagiline or an inactive placebo. At the end of the study, those taking rasagiline had better symptom control without adverse side effects than those who did not.
 
The blood pressure study was supported by Chelsea Therapeutics. The “wearing-off” study was funded by Biotie Therapies Inc. The early Parkinson’s disease study was supported by Teva Pharmaceuticals.

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