Authors: Alice Weatherston
A commonly prescribed dementia drug has been identified as potentially effective for helping to prevent debilitating falls and improving quality of life in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The study was published recently in The Lancet Neurology and carried out at the University of Bristol (UK).
Approximately 70% of individuals with Parkinson’s disease fall at least once a year and over one-third of these have frequent falls, making it a major issue for the 7 million Parkinson’s patients worldwide.
Rivastigimine, which is regularly prescribed to patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, was tested in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which 130 patients who had fallen in the last year were enrolled and assigned to either receive the drug or a placebo.
After 32 weeks, individuals who received rivastigmine were 45% less likely to fall and showed increased steadiness when walking in comparison to individuals that did not receive the active ingredient.
Rivastigmine works in dementia by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine. As reduced levels of acetylcholine is a key reason for problems with balance and walking in Parkinson’s patients the team thought that the drug may be effective to solve these difficulties. “Our study shows for the first time that it can also improve walking, regularity of step, speed, and balance. This is a real breakthrough in reducing the risk of falls for people with Parkinson’s,” commented Emily Henderson (University of Bristol), the principal investigator on the study.
“These results take us a step closer to improving the quality of life and finding better treatments for people with Parkinson’s. But we still need more information before we recommend that people with Parkinson’s are prescribed rivastigmine for falls,” added Parkinson’s UK Director of Research, Arthur Roach.
You can take a look at a recent interview with Arthur Roach here.
Sources: Parkinson’s UK press release; Henderson EJ et al. Rivastigmine for gait stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease (ReSPonD): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial. The Lancet Neurology http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(15)00389-0 (2016).