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New Drugs May Offer Hope to Parkinson's Patients
Date:3/14/2013

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Parkinson's disease has no cure, but three experimental treatments may help patients cope with unpleasant symptoms and related problems, according to new research.

The research findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Diego from March 16 to 23.

"Progress is being made to expand our use of medications, develop new medications and to treat symptoms that either we haven't been able to treat effectively or we didn't realize were problems for patients," said Dr. Robert Hauser, professor of neurology and director of the University of South Florida Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Tampa.

Parkinson's disease, a degenerative brain disorder, affects more than 1 million Americans. It destroys nerve cells in the brain that make dopamine, which helps control muscle movement. Patients experience shaking or tremors, slowness of movement, balance problems and a stiffness or rigidity in arms and legs.

In one study, Hauser evaluated the drug droxidopa, which is not yet approved for use in the United States, to help patients who experience a rapid fall in blood pressure when they stand up, which causes light-headedness and dizziness. About one-fifth of Parkinson's patients have this problem, which is due to a failure of the autonomic nervous system to release enough of the hormone norepinephrine when posture changes.

Hauser studied 225 people with this blood-pressure problem, assigning half to a placebo group and half to take droxidopa for 10 weeks. The drug changes into norepinephrine in the body.

Those on the medicine had a two-fold decline in dizziness and lightheadedness compared to the placebo group. They had fewer falls, too, although it was not a statistically significant decline.

In a second study, Hauser assessed 420 patients who experienced a daily "
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