A double-blind clinical trial aims to investigate if a powerful drug used to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients could alleviate hallucinations in people with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s UK, a charitable funder of Parkinson’s research in Europe, is partnering with UCL, and investing £1 million in a phase II clinical trial to explore if the drug ondansetron is safe and effective against hallucinations.

The trial comes at a crucial time as a survey carried out by the charity suggests that 1 in 10 people with Parkinson’s reported an increase in hallucinations during lockdown, which led to an increase in calls to their helpline, Parkinson’s UK notes in a media release.

“It’s vital we find better treatments for people with Parkinson’s who have seen their hallucinations worsen at home, and ondansetron offers much hope for them and their families. If successful, positive results from the trial could see this drug, which is already used in the NHS, quickly repurposed to become an available treatment in Parkinson’s.”

— Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK

The only medications available to treat Parkinson’s hallucinations are anti-psychotic drugs which can worsen Parkinson’s symptoms and potentially cause serious side effects, according to the release.

2-Year Trial at NHS Clinics in the UK

The 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is set to recruit 216 people over 2 years in 20-25 NHS clinics across the UK. Patients will be randomized to receive either drug or placebo tablets, to take at home for 12 weeks. To accommodate social distancing, researchers will conduct the majority of the study via video or telephone consultations, with face-to-face assessments limited to only three for essential blood tests or ECGs.

Visual and other types of hallucinations, as well as delusions (false beliefs), will be assessed after 6 and 12 weeks of treatment, along with Parkinson’s-related motor and non-motor symptoms.

“Visual hallucinations pose a particular challenge in Parkinson’s as the very treatments for motor symptoms in Parkinson’s can also trigger and worsen this distressing symptom. Finding treatments for hallucinations that are both effective and safe is an area of great unmet need.

“Ondansetron influences visual processing in the brain, and its potential for treating visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s was first identified in small studies in the early 1990s.

“This trial will enable us to find out if ondansetron is effective and safe as a treatment and if it is, we could see clinicians prescribing an inexpensive drug with fewer side effects to people with Parkinson’s throughout the UK.”

— Lead researcher, Suzanne Reeves, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology at UCL

[Source(s): Parkinson’s UK, EurekAlert]

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