Parkinson's Drug Meant to Work With Levodopa

Portugal — New research into Parkinson’s disease suggests that people with the disease may achieve better and more reliable motor control by taking opicapone, an experimental drug, alongside the standard levodopa.

A study of several hundred Parkinson’s patients found that the drug boosts levodopa’s ability to control the motor difficulties associated with Parksinson’s, including tremors, stiffness and slowed movement, said Dr. Patricio Soares-da-Silva, the study’s co-author and director of research and development for the drug’s maker, Bial-Portela & Ca. SA, in Portugal.

Opicapone (Ongentys) appears to be an improvement over current treatment options added Soares-da-Silva.

While there is no known cure nor is there any treatment that effectively slows or stops the progression of Parkinson’s disease, certain medications like levodopa can control the movement problems. Common in long-term levodopa patients however is a wearing-off effect called dyskinesia, and while two COMT inhibitors commonly combat dyskinesia, but both have their own limitations. 

This new study set out to explore the potential use of opicapone as an alternative. It too inhibits the COMT enzyme.

The study tested 427 Parkinson’s patients from 71 care facilities across 12 countries; each had had a Parkinson’s diagnosis for at least three years and were all experiencing waning levodopa effectiveness. Between 2011 and 2013 the patients began a three-to-four-month trial receiving 25 or 50mg of opicapone once per day, or a daily placebo pill. Following this was a year-long trial during which each subject received either low or high-dose opicapone alongside levodopa.

The research team found that at the end of both trials, those taking the higher-dose version of opicapone achieved a “significant reduction” in the amount of time levodopa failed to work, which was characterized as “off-time.” This effect was not seen at the lower dosage.

Soares-da-Silva added that the higher-dose opicapone also triggered an increase in the amount of time levodopa performed well, meaning the amount of time the drug was “on” without signs of debilitating involuntary movement.

While the drug is already approved in Europe, the drug maker has not yet applied for approval in the United States. Link

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