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Potential Parkinson's drug relieves symptoms with few side effects

The Parkinson Study Group (PSG) has published results from a recent study showing that a potential new drug, rasagaline, is effective at treating patients in the early stages of Parkinson's and may even slow the progression of the disease. The effects of rasagiline were measured in a study of 371 patients. The PSG study demonstrated that the drug helps treat many symptoms of the disease and helped with everyday tasks such as cutting food, writing and dressing oneself.

While the improvement in symptoms was consistent with that offered by other medications on the market, the drug generally caused fewer side effects than many Parkinson's drugs, researchers say, including less sleepiness and nausea and fewer hallucinations.

In this study the researchers also sought to determine both the short-term and long-term effects of the medication. While physicians can assess the impact of a medication on a patient's symptoms, it is difficult to know whether it is actually slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease, says neurologist Ira Shoulson, M.D., of the University of Rochester, the principal investigator of the study.

"This study helps disentangle the short-term and long-term consequences of therapy and tease out whether an effect on the underlying disease process could be present," says Andrew Siderowf, M.D., the corresponding author and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Other scientists have shown in the laboratory that rasagaline appears to protect nerve cells affected by Parkinson's disease from apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

"The innovative design of the study suggests that the medication may modify the course of the disease. But this is just a first hint of this clinically - more studies need to be done to see if rasagaline truly modifies the course of Parkinson's disease," adds Shoulson.

Source Date: Apr 19 2004