Medtronic DBS devices, with drugs, improved early-stage Parkinson's symptoms

Two Medtronic ($MDT) deep brain stimulation device-implants, in combination with drugs, helped improve symptoms in patients with early-stage Parkinson's disease, according to a new study.

As Bloomberg notes, the DBS implants are currently targeted for advanced Parkinson's patients for whom drugs don't consistently work. So the new clinical trial data, detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, should help propel efforts to expand DBS for use in Parkinson's patients. Specifically, Medtronic's Kinetra and Soletra devices, which scientists used in the international study, stand to gain because they will have compelling data behind them to support expanded use for both products.  And the results validate what has already been happening unofficially. MedPage Today reports that many physicians already use neurostimulation off-label for earlier-stage Parkinson's patients.

While Medtronic helped fund the study, the German Ministry of Research and the French Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique National also contributed research grants.

For the randomized, controlled clinical trial, 251 Parkinson's disease patients were treated over more than 7 years either with drugs alone, or with the Soletra and Kinetra DBS devices combined with drugs. As Bloomberg reports, patients in each arm showed improvement, but the drug/DBS patients did even better, and patients treated with just drugs reported a slight dip in their quality of life. MedPage Today notes that patients with early motor complications reported a 26% boost in their quality of life scores after receiving both DBS and drug treatment, while patients on drug therapy saw their quality of life scores dip by 1%.

What's more, the DBS patients developed more autonomy, and reported both a better emotional state and improved cognition. That is an interesting side result, considering DBS is also used to treat depression. However, the stimulation led to side effects in some cases, Bloomberg notes, such as suicide.

Parkinson's patients are expected to double in the U.S. by 2013 as the population ages. More than 1.5 million have the disease now, according to Parkinson's Disease Foundation data cited by Bloomberg.

- read the Bloomberg story
- here's MedPage Today's take
- check out the NEJM summary

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