Parkinson's drug combats disability after major brain injuries

Clinical evidence now backs up the use of a drug prescribed off-label to treat victims of traumatic brain injuries. The researchers behind the trial say their study is the first with clinical data to support the use of the drug, a generic Parkinson's treatment called amantadine, for those recovering from brain trauma. In addition, it appears to speed recoveries, Bloomberg reported.

The impressive results of the NIH-backed study show some participants on the treatment advanced from a vegetative or barely conscious state to being able to speak intelligibly. The 184-patient trial enrolled patients who had suffered brain injuries within the past four to 16 weeks, and saw those taking amantadine "recovering significantly faster" than those who got a placebo during the four-week treatment period, the researchers wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine, which published the findings.

"There's no question in my mind this is now finally some cause for optimism in a patient population that has historically been viewed as beyond help and, frankly, hopeless," said Joseph Giacino, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, according to Bloomberg.

Still, the study only lasted 6 weeks and doesn't shine light on whether the drug could provide long-term benefits to victims of head trauma. But with a dim outlook for many patients who suffer such injuries, anything that could speed recovery would be welcome.

- here's the NEJM article
- get more in Bloomberg's report