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Study finds Parkinson’s drug is effective at treating TBI

A drug used for years to treat Parkinson’s disease is speeding recovery for patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in a way never seen before, according to a study published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors have had little choice but to try different medications to help patients suffering from TBIs. Often, it is a shot in the dark with doctors having to rely on hunches or common sense over hard data. One of the medications doctors have turned to over the years is Amantadine. But, there have been no studies to prove just how effective the drug is at treating patients with debilitating head injuries.

Amantadine was used in the 1960s to treat the flu. When used widely in a nursing home setting, it was found to lessen the movement and alertness symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Amantadine appeared to have an effect on the brain’s dopamine system, and has since been approved for the treatment of Parkinson’s.

The study on Amantadine for the treatment of TBI was conducted in Germany and focused on 184 disabled patients with an average age of 38. A third of the patients were mainly unconscious with only short periods where they showed signs of awareness. Amantadine or a placebo was given to patients at random for four weeks. Both groups showed some signs of improvement, but those on amantadine had what researchers identified as better, faster results. When the drug therapy was stopped, patients who had been taking Amantadine recovery slowed and two weeks after treatment stopped, both groups appeared to have lost any improvement gained through the drug.

“Now that we know that Amantadine can accelerate neurologic recovery, we need to explore the dose and treatment schedule that provides the greatest and most durable treatment impact,” says study co-leader John Whyte, MD, PhD, Director of Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute. “Importantly, this study adds to the growing evidence that patients with disorders of consciousness have rehabilitation potential that we are just beginning to tap.”

Source: Medical News Today