Blood pressure drug could slow progression of Parkinson's disease

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Isradipine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, is now being used in clinical trials to see if it can slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease affects about 6 million people worldwide. There is no cure for the disease, but researchers are learning more about it, and now an old drug used to lower high blood pressure may offer patients new hope.

Dr. David Higgins lives a busy life and keeps an active lifestyle. But a few years ago, some mysterious symptoms threatened to slow him down.

Higgins was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which causes difficulty with walking, movement and coordination.

"I was having trouble swimming, and I was having trouble running. Stiffness, soreness, lack of control," he said. "It does not make me feel good about the future."

UC San Diego Healthy System neurologist Irene Litvan said the future is looking brighter for people like Higgins. She is studying a new therapy for Parkinson's that is being used to treat high blood pressure.

It's a drug called Isradipine, which works by blocking calcium channels in the body. Researchers believe calcium may be overexpressed in people with Parkinson's diease, and animal studies show calcium blockers may slow Parkinson's.

People who take the drug for high blood pressure are less likely to develop the disease.

"Hopefully, it will slow the progression of the disease, and ideally it would stop the progression of the disease," Litvan said.

A phase two study found the drug was safe to use in Parkinson's patients. Now a larger trial will determine if the drug can slow down the disease. Higgins said he is hopeful it can.

But until it works, he said he is going to stay active for as long as he can.

"There is hope for more effective therapies and perhaps even a cure," he said.

Litvan said patients would probably have to take the medication for the rest of their lives to benefit, and researchers are still enrolling patients in the clinical trial.

Related Topics:
healthhealthy livingparkinson's diseasemedical researchstudyclinical trials
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