New clinical trial tests if cough medicine can treat Parkinson's

University College London launches two-year clinical trial to test if cough medicine ambroxol can slow down Parkinson’s disease

  • Early studies show that ambroxol appears to remove damaging brain proteins 
  • Parkinson’s disease affects brain cells that control movement across the body 
  • Currently there are no treatments capable of combatting the neuro condition
  • Half of the 330 patients on the trial will receive the drug, the others, a placebo 

A major trial to test whether a cough medicine will slow down Parkinson’s has been announced.

Early studies suggest the drug, called ambroxol, appears to remove damaging proteins from the brain which are associated with the degenerative disease.

Currently there are no treatments capable of combating the neurological condition, which affects cells in the part of the brain that controls movement of the body.

Experts say the new study is the closest that scientists have come to developing an effective Parkinson’s treatment.

UCL is launching a major two-year clinical trial to determine if a common cough medicine can slow down the decline of patients with Parkinson’s disease

The drug, Ambroxol – which comes in both pill and syrup form – is already used to ease coughing by clearing away mucus in the lungs of patients with respiratory diseases

Ambroxol – which comes in both pill and syrup form – is already used to ease coughing by clearing away mucus in the lungs of patients with respiratory diseases. But it also increases levels of a protein called glucocerebrosidase, known as GCase, in the brain.

GCase is crucial for removing a harmful substance, called alpha-synuclein, which scientists believe builds up in the brains of Parkinson’s patients and is responsible for its symptoms, which include involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiff and inflexible joints.

The new trial, which will take place at up to 12 hospitals in the UK, will recruit 330 Parkinson’s patients. Half the participants will take ambroxol for two years and the other half will be given a placebo drug. At the end of this period, researchers will analyse the progression of Parkinson’s in the two groups, specifically looking at the participants’ quality of life and movement.

There are more than 140,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK. Doctors are still unsure as to what triggers it and there is currently no cure, but patients can take drugs that reduce the main symptoms.

Professor Anthony Schapira, a neurologist at University College London and principal investigator on the trial, says: ‘This will be the first time a drug specifically applied to a cause of Parkinson’s disease has reached this level of trial.’

Professor David Dexter, associate director of research at the charity Parkinson’s UK, adds: ‘People with Parkinson’s desperately need new and better treatments. If this trial is a success, ambroxol has the potential to be available in years, not decades.’

The drug also increases levels of a protein called glucocerebrosidase, known as GCase, in the brain. GCase is crucial for removing a harmful substance, called alpha-synuclein, which scientists believe builds up in the brains of Parkinson’s patients and is responsible for its symptoms, which include involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiff and inflexible joints

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