A study appearing in the New York Times suggests that daily doses of a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease may also have treatment implications for traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients. During the study, researchers reportedly tested the drug, amantadine hydrochloride against a placebo in two large groups of patients.

Researchers from 11 clinics note that they enrolled 184 patients following a recent TBI caused by car accidents or blows to the head. The study adds that some patients were in a vegetative state while others were in a minimally conscious state. According to the New York Times, Joseph T. Giacino, PhD, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston, Mass, and John Whyte, MD, PhD, Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, headquartered in Elkins Park, Pa, led the study. Researchers report that they divided the patients into two groups matched to the severity of their injuries. One group received two doses of amantadine a day through feeding tubes. The second group received placebo pills. In addition, the study was reportedly blinded.

Researchers note that after four weeks, the patients’ progress was analyzed using a scale designed to rate abilities in areas such as coordination and communication. The scale scoring occurred regularly at bedside and ranged from zero, for no disability, to 29, indicating a state of total unresponsiveness, the article explains. 

The results suggest that patients receiving the amantadine exhibited more improvement by two points on the disability scale than those who were not treated with the drug. Giacino reiterates the study’s findings, “The results of this study provide convincing evidence that it is possible to increase the speed of recovery from severe traumatic brain injury when treatment is initiated within four months of onset. These findings engender optimism for a medical condition that is often viewed as untreatable,” Giacino says in a recent Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital news release.  

In light of the study’s findings, Whyte articulates the need to explore the dose and treatment schedule that could potentially provide a durable treatment impact for patients. “Importantly, this study adds to the growing evidence that patients with disorders of consciousness have rehabilitation potential that we are just beginning tap,” Whyte adds.

Source(s): New York Times, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital