"There has been quite a bit of media attention regarding high-intensity exercise as key, but our research showed low-intensity exceeded its efficacy," said Shulman, a professor of neurology at University of Maryland School of Medicine. "What was very significant was it was not necessary to increase intensity of walking . . . [and] we can say that virtually everyone at all stages of the disease can achieve some benefit."
The safinamide study was the first randomized, long-term clinical trial to show the drug reduced dyskinesia, or involuntary movements, when taken with levodopa. Levodopa increases levels of dopamine in the brain to help ease the stiffness, tremors and poor muscle control of Parkinson's, which is incurable.
Over a two-year period, researchers split 669 patients with mid- to late-stage Parkinson's who were already taking levodopa into groups that were given either 50 milligrams (mg) or 100 mg per day of safinamide, or a placebo.
Overall, the study found no significant improvements in their dyskinesia or other movement problems among patients taking the drug vs. the placebo.
But among a subset of participants suffering from severe dyskinesia, those taking 100 mg of safinamide per day experienced an average 24 percent reduction in movement problems, according to the study, which was funded by Newron Pharmaceuticals in Italy.
"It is a nice amount of improvement -- not dramatically life-changing, but real and interesting," said Dr. Michael Kaplitt, leading Michael Stern Parkinson's Research Foundation researcher and vice chairman for research in the department of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
"I think it's promising, to the extent that Parkinson's patients always need new therapies to come out," Kaplitt added. "It definitely warrants further study."
Kaplitt noted that the exercise stu
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