Effectiveness of Drugs Used To Treat Parkinson's Disease In Early, Later Stages Measured

Denver, Colo. – The use of different medications during early versus later stages of Parkinson''s disease is critical to managing symptoms - and perhaps the progression - of the disease, according to two studies presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. The main pathologic and biochemical characteristic of Parkinson''s disease is the selective cell death of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain area called substantia nigra and marked decrease in dopamine neurotransmitter produced by these neurons. In both studies, one that was conducted with pramipaxole and the other with ropinirole, the dopamine agonists slowed the rate of dopaminerergic degeneration after initial treatment. In one of the studies, conducted by the Parkinson Study Group and led by investigators at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders in New Haven, Conn., the rate of this dopaminergic degeneration after early treatment with the drugs pramipexole and levodopa, administered to 82 early Parkinson''s patients, was compared using brain imaging. "Our data suggest that patients initially treated with pramipexole experience a significantly slower rate of loss of dopaminergic neuronal functioning compared to those treated with levodopa," said study author Kenneth Marek, MD. "While there remains debate about treatment for early Parkinson''s disease -- and all treatment should be individualized to meet the needs of the patient - this study adds important new information to the growing body of knowledge on the early treatment of Parkinson''s disease." This study was supported by Pharmacia Corporation and Boehringer Ingelheim. The other study, conducted by a multi-center group headed by David J. Brooks, MD, DSc, FRCP, Professor of Neurology at the Imperial College School of Medicine in London, showed significantly slower disease progression in PD patients taking ropinirole compared with L-dopa. In addition, a significantly lower incidence of dyskenesias was seen in patients taking ropinirole. "This is a very exciting breakthrough," said Brooks. "Two studies with a very different design, using imaging to examine dopamine nerve function, have both shown that relative to levodopa, dopamine agonists slow disease progression by a third and delay complications. The results strongly support the early use of dopamine agonists in Parkinson''s disease." GlaxoSmithKline supported the study.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 34,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit AAN.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Editor's Notes:Both studies will be presented during a platform presentation on Tuesday, April 16, 2002 beginning at 2:00 p.m. in Room A 207/9 of the Colorado Convention Center.


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