New Drug Gives Hope to Those With Traumatic Brain Injuries


A drug used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease may also benefit those with severe brain injuries, according to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research indicated that daily doses of the drug – amantadine hydrochloride – improved functioning in those with traumatic brain injuries.

The study was conducted by researchers from 11 different clinics who worked with 184 patients. The patients had recently experienced a traumatic brain injury from car accidents or other blows to the head. They were in various states of responsiveness. Some were in a minimally conscious state where they could follow objects and respond to commands at times. Others were in a vegetative state, awake but unresponsive.

One group of patients received two doses of amantadine each day while another group was given placebo pills. The therapists providing the care were not aware which patients were receiving the actual drug.

As to be expected, most of the patients improved over the course of a month since their brain injuries were recent. There was, however, a notable difference in the group receiving the Parkinson’s drug. On a disability scale ranging from 0-29 (from no disability to total unresponsiveness), those on the drug improved by two more points. Although this represents only a small difference, the fact that the improvement occurred in only the span of four weeks makes it significant.

Previously, no therapy had been demonstrated to reliably help patients such as these with the most severe brain injuries. Experts said the progress the patients made on the drug was meaningful, but warned that the drug does not represent a cure or method of “waking up” unresponsive individuals.

This news drug does provide hope for the 50,000 to 100,000 Americans trapped in various states of partial consciousness. It is also probable that those with less severe brain injuries would also experience benefits from the treatment.

Source: The New York Times, Parkinson’s Drug May Help With Brain Injuries, Report Finds, Benedict Carey, 29 February 2012

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