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Behind the headlines

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‘Early drug use slows Parkinson’s’

What did the media report?

The media reported that the early use of a drug called rasagiline (Azilect) may be able to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

What did the research show?

The reports are based on findings from the ADAGIO study announced at the end of last month at the Congress of European Federation of Neurological Societies held in Madrid, Spain.

The trial examined rasagiline’s potential disease-modifying effects in 1,176 patients from 14 countries with early, untreated Parkinson’s disease. The drug is indicated to treat the symptoms of the condition but not the underlying condition itself.

Subjects were randomised to early start treatment, consisting of 72 weeks of rasagiline 1mg or 2mg once daily, or delayed-start treatment, consisting of 36 weeks taking a placebo followed by 36 weeks of rasagiline 1mg or 2mg once daily. Results were based on the change in total Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale.

The authors said starting treatment early appeared to slow progression of the condition significantly, potentially by protecting brain cells. Those who took the drug within four months of being diagnosed had better disease ratings than patients who were given it six months later, they said.

What did the researchers say?

Co-lead investigator Warren Olanow, professor of neurology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, said: ‘Delaying disease progression is the most important unmet need in the management of Parkinson’s disease. Results of the study show that early treatment with once-daily rasagiline 1mg tablets provided significant clinical benefits that were not obtained by those patients where initiation of Azilect therapy was delayed by nine months.’

What does this mean for nursing practice?

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research for the Parkinson’s Disease Society, said: ‘This study is important in that it underlines that treatment should be given earlier to Parkinson’s patients.

‘However, while what we do know is that over a small time period there is an advantage, we really don’t know if this will be maintained over the long term.’

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