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Drug may provide new hope for Parkinson's treatment

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CNN's Rhonda Rowland reports on a new drug that may help treat Parkinson's
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July 26, 1999
Web posted at: 3:01 p.m. EDT (1901 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

VANCOUVER, Canada (CNN) -- Researchers say a new type of drug may revolutionize the treatment of people in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.

The drug, called ReQuip, is in a new class of drugs known as dopamine agonists. ReQuip is known generically as ropinirole.

A multi-national, five-year study shows patients who took ReQuip were 15 times less likely to develop the troublesome side effects associated with the drug L-dopa, which is the current standard treatment for Parkinson's. These side effects were described as involuntary, flailing or jerky movements, known medically as dyskinesias.

"This new study shows we can alter those side effects by how we treat Parkinson's in the early stages, the first five years," said Dr. Ray Watts of Atlanta's Emory University Hospital.

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disease characterized by tremors or rigidity. The disease results from a deficiency of a brain chemical called dopamine. For the past several decades, doctors have used the drug levadopa, or L-dopa, to replace dopamine.

"Although L-dopa works very well, the problem with it is as many as 80 percent of patients who've been on it for 5 to 10 years develop the motor side effects," said Dr. Warren Olanow with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The new research is being presented at the International Congress on Parkinson's Disease being held in Vancouver. It shows that after five years, the incidence of dyskinesias in patients taking ReQuip was five percent compared to 36 percent for those taking L-dopa.

The study also found benefits for patients taking both ReQuip and L-dopa. Of the patients taking combination therapy, just 20 percent developed the troublesome side effects, compared to 46 percent of patients who took only L-dopa.

"I think this is one of the most important discoveries in the management of Parkinson's disease in the past decade. When we used L-dopa in the past, we got the good benefits but you pay the price of side effects," Dr. Olanow said.

Up until now, treatments were being developed to combat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Now, efforts are under way to slow its progression.

Researchers hope new ReQuip studies will determine if it can help with the progression aspect of Parkinson's as well. They should have that answer in two to three years.

"The biggest push now in Parkinson's research is to find agents that will slow the progression, we can treat the symptoms very well, but the problem is over time as patients lose more brain cells, they need more and more treatment and that's where you get the side effects," said Dr. Watts.

Each year, more than 60,000 new cases of Parkinson's disease are diagnosed in the United States.

ReQuip is manufactured by SmithKline Beecham.

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Parkinsons Disease Society
The Parkinson's Network
ReQuip homepage
National Parkinson Foundation, Inc.
  • Requip Product Information
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