UCL launches clinical trial to test whether cough medicine ambroxol can slow down Parkinson’s disease

University College London is launching a two-year clinical trial to test whether the cough medicine ambroxol can slow down Parkinson’s disease

  • Early studies show that ambroxol appears to remove harmful brain proteins
  • Parkinson’s disease affects brain cells that control movement throughout the body
  • There are currently no treatments that are able to combat the neurological disease
  • Half of the 330 patients in the study will receive the drug and the rest a placebo

A large study to test whether a cough medicine slows Parkinson’s disease has been announced.

Early studies suggest that the drug, called ambroxol, removes harmful proteins from the brain that are associated with the degenerative disease.

There are currently no treatments that are able to combat the neurological condition, which affects cells in the part of the brain that controls the body’s movement.

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

UCL is launching a large two-year clinical trial to see if a common cough medicine can slow the decline in patients with Parkinson's disease

UCL is launching a large two-year clinical trial to see if a common cough medicine can slow the decline in patients with Parkinson’s disease

The drug Ambroxol, which comes in both tablet and syrup form, is already being used to relieve coughs by clearing mucus in the lungs of patients with respiratory diseases

The drug ambroxol – which comes in both tablet and syrup form – is already being used to relieve coughing by clearing mucus in the lungs of patients with respiratory illnesses

Ambroxol — which comes in both tablet and syrup form — is already being used to relieve coughing by clearing mucus in the lungs of patients with respiratory conditions. But it also increases levels of a protein called glucocerebrosidase, known as GCase, in the brain.

GCase is critical in removing a harmful substance called alpha-synuclein, which scientists believe accumulates in the brains of Parkinson’s patients and is responsible for their symptoms, which include involuntary tremors, slow movements, and stiff and inflexible joints.

The new study, which will be conducted in up to 12 UK hospitals, will enroll 330 Parkinson’s patients. Half of the participants will take Ambroxol for two years and the other half will receive a placebo drug. At the end of this period, the researchers will analyze the progression of Parkinson’s disease in the two groups, looking in particular at the participants’ quality of life and movement quality.

More than 140,000 people are living with Parkinson’s in the UK. Doctors are still unsure what triggers them and there is currently no cure, but patients can take medications that relieve the main symptoms.

Professor Anthony Schapira, a neurologist at University College London and the study’s lead investigator, says: ‘This will be the first time that a drug specifically targeting a cause of Parkinson’s disease has reached this level of study.’

Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at the charity Parkinson’s UK, adds: “People with Parkinson’s desperately need new and better treatments. If this study is successful, 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 critical in removing a harmful substance called alpha-synuclein, which scientists believe accumulates in the brains of Parkinson's patients and is responsible for their symptoms, which include involuntary tremors, slow movements, and stiff and inflexible joints

The drug also increases levels of a protein called glucocerebrosidase, known as GCase, in the brain. GCase is critical in removing a harmful substance called alpha-synuclein, which scientists believe accumulates in the brains of Parkinson’s patients and is responsible for their symptoms, which include involuntary tremors, slow movements, and stiff and inflexible joints

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Emma Colton

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