MONDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- An investigational drug called pridopidine seems an effective and safe treatment for people with the progressive movement disorder Huntington's disease, researchers report.
Huntington's patients have an imbalance in the signaling chemical dopamine. The new drug stabilizes dopamine signaling in areas of the brain that control movement and coordination.
According to the study authors, this is the first drug shown to improve patients' loss of ability to move their muscles voluntarily. The only drug currently approved for Huntington's is tetrabenazine, which treats only involuntary movements and can cause serious side effects.
The results of the phase 3 clinical trial, conducted by Spanish researchers led by Dr. Justo Garcia de Yebenes, of the department of neurology, Hospital Ramon y Cajal in Madrid, appear in the Nov. 7 online edition of The Lancet Neurology.
The study included 437 Huntington's disease patients from eight European countries. The participants took either pridopidine (45 milligrams once daily or 45 mg twice daily) or a placebo for 26 weeks.
After six months of treatment, patients taking the higher dose of pridopidine showed improvements in motor function -- specifically in eye and hand movements, involuntary muscle contractions (dystonia), and gait and balance -- compared with patients taking the placebo.
More than 70 percent of the patients taking the higher dose of the drug showed a significant benefit, according to the researchers. Side effects among patients taking the drug were similar to the placebo group.
"Pridopidine has the potential to complement available treatments by improving a different range of motor deficits. Its lack of severe side-effects . . . suggests that pridopidine might be useful even for those patients who are treated at sites that are not centers of excellence for Huntington's disease," the researchers concluded.'/>"/>
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