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Can a dementia drug help with Parkinson’s?

By Tim Sandle     Apr 25, 2016 in Health
A new study using an existing drug for dementia has indicated that the therapy may also be effective against Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a type of neurodegenerative disease that affects the muscles, leading to tremors and an eventual inability to walk. The disease is progressive. Moreover, the condition is difficult to detect and it can take several years for the disease to become apparent. In the U.S. alone, health figures indicate that up to one million people may have the condition. The disease tends to affect men more than women. Due to the high number of cases, considerable investment goes into finding better treatment or even a cure.
Current medication can help to alleviate the symptoms; however there is no cure. The new research has shown that a drug designed to help with dementia may also help alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s. One of the problems associated with the neurological condition is that those affected often lose balance and there is the risk of falling over. It is with stabilizing this aspect of the disease that the drug shows marked success.
The investigation has centered on a drug called rivastigmine. Medical studies have taken place where those with Parkinson’s disease have been given the drug and monitored. The monitoring has shown improved stability, improving the ability of people with more advanced stages of the disease to walk short distances without falling down.
Commenting on the success of the study, lead researcher Dr. Emily Henderson said: “With the degeneration of dopamine producing nerve cells, people with Parkinson's often have issues with unsteadiness when walking. As part of the condition, they also have lower levels of acetylcholine, a chemical which helps us to concentrate - making it extremely difficult to pay attention to walking.”
She added, in relation to the drug treatment: “We already know that rivastigmine works to treat dementia by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, however our study shows for the first time that it can also improve regularity of walking, speed, and balance. This is a real breakthrough in reducing the risk of falls for people with Parkinson's.”
The research is published in the journal The Lancet Neurology, in a paper titled “Rivastigmine for gait stability in patients with Parkinson's disease (ReSPonD): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial.”
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