Clinical trials eye repurposed drugs to help with Parkinson’s disease

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A researcher at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids says strides are being made in finding more medications to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s in a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement. It’s estimated that as many as 1 million Americans have it. Thursday was World Parkinson’s Day.

“There’s no cure for Parkinson’s today, but we have many therapies that treat the symptoms very well for many years,” Dr. Darren Moore, chair of the VAI Department of Neurodegenerative Science, told News 8. “One new approach is repurposing drugs for other diseases, such as diabetes, that may have some indication that they may protect the brain and work in Parkinson’s.”

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He said VAI is leading an international clinical trial to test how effective those drugs maybe. One trial for a drug typically used for Type II diabetes is now in phase three. Another for a different diabetes drug is in phase two and appeared to show positive results in slowing the decline of motor function during a small trial in France, Moore said. A third trial, also in phase three, is looking at the effects of a cough medicine on the brain.

“We also are kind of getting more clues about Parkinson’s and what causes it, and so that’s leading to new targets” for trials, he said.

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While Moore said the condition seems to have become more common in the last 50 years or so, he also said progress has been made in recent years in diagnosing it and catching it early.

“Sometimes even before they develop motor problems,” he said. “We can find things like sleep disturbances and constipation and psychiatric symptoms that precede the motor symptoms.”

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