£2.1m trial into Parkinson’s at the University of Bristol

A UK-wide trial into Parkinson’s disease led by Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol is set to go ahead, thanks to a £2.1m grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The University of Bristol reports it will test whether a commonly prescribed dementia drug could prevent debilitating falls for people with the disease. Falls are a frequent complication of Parkinson’s, which affect around 60% of the one hundred and twenty seven people diagnosed with the condition each year.

With the degeneration of dopamine producing nerve cells people with Parkinson’s often have issues with unsteadiness when walking. As part of the condition they also have lower levels of acetylcholine, a chemical which helps people concentrate, making it extremely difficult to pay attention to walking. The combination of both often leads to injuries, broken bones and hospital admission.

The new three year trial is led by Dr Emily Henderson, a Geriatrician at the Royal United Hospital in Bath and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol. It will recruit six hundred people across twenty six UK hospitals to determine whether a drug, known as a cholinesterase inhibitor (ChEi), will help people with Parkinson’s.

The trial follows on from earlier phase trials which showed that cholinesterase inhibitor treatment has potential to almost halve the number of falls and improve the regularity of walking, speed, and balance.

Emily Henderson said “As the population ages, the number of people living with Parkinson’s disease and the occurrence of complications will increase. There is an urgent need to identify treatments that reduce falls in Parkinson’s disease. This trial will provide definitive evidence as to the role of ChEi for falls. If successful, this treatment will improve the lives of people living with Parkinson’s now and has the potential to be tested in other groups of patients who are at high risk of falling. We are working hard to tackle one of the most disabling complications of Parkinson’s.”

Trial participants will be randomly assigned a twelve month course of either a cholinesterase inhibitor via a patch or a placebo. They will be asked to record any falls that they experience in diaries that they post back each month for a year.

Findings from the trial, funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme (HTA), will be published in a research journal.

For further information about the trial, which is due to begin in early 2019, email chief-pd@bristol.ac.uk.

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