Groundbreaking Development: Experimental Drug Demonstrates Potential to Slow Parkinson’s Disease Progression

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A diabetes medication has shown promise in slowing the progression of motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

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Affecting 10 million people globally, Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder with no known cure, characterized by tremors, slow movement, speech difficulties, and balance issues, which intensify over time.

Interest has grown in a type of medication known as GLP-1 receptor agonists – drugs that replicate a hormone from the gut used in diabetes and obesity treatments – for their potential neuron-protecting qualities.

Until now, clinical evidence supporting their benefits for Parkinson’s patients has been sparse and previous studies have yielded mixed results.

The study involved 156 individuals with early-stage Parkinson’s from France, who were randomly assigned to receive either lixisenatide, marketed as Adlyxin and Lyxumia by Sanofi, or a placebo.

Results after a year showed that those treated with the injection did not experience a worsening of movement symptoms, unlike the placebo group.

The improvement was described as “modest” by the study and was primarily noted by professionals who conducted physical task assessments with the patients, said Olivier Rascol, a neurologist at Toulouse University and the senior author of the study.

Rascol speculated that the gradual nature of Parkinson’s progression might mean more pronounced differences would emerge with longer follow-up.

“This marks the first occasion where we’ve seen definitive results demonstrating an impact on symptom progression, attributed to a neuroprotective effect,” Rascol mentioned.

The drug did lead to common gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and reflux, and some patients experienced weight loss.

Both Rasol and Wassilios Meissner, a co-author and neurologist at Bordeaux University Hospital, emphasized the need for further research to ascertain the treatment’s safety and efficacy before it becomes a standard option for patients.

Michael Okun, medical director of the Parkinson’s Foundation, noted the differences in patient outcomes weren’t significant in practical terms but were statistically noteworthy and deserving of further interest.

“While there’s debate over whether this study indicates neuroprotection, the side effect of weight loss raises concerns for Parkinson’s patients,” Okun added.

Rodolfo Savica from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota highlighted the need for replication of the study to confirm its findings. He also suggested analyzing the data by age group could uncover specific ages where the treatment might be more effective.

The authors anticipate results from additional trials that may reinforce their findings.

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