Antiepileptic Drug: Zonegran (Zonisamide) Might Be an Alternative for Patients

Antiepileptic Drug: Zonegran (Zonisamide) Might Be an Alternative for Patients w

Parkinson's disease results when nerve cells in a certain part of the brain die or stop working properly. These cells stop producing an important brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine normally transmits signals to another part of the brain that allows controlled muscle movement. Without enough dopamine, the cells in this part of the brain fire out of control. As a result, you are unable to control your movements normally. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter and alterations in its concentration can lead to different medical problems.


People with Parkinson's disease often experience trembling, muscle rigidity, difficulty walking, problems with balance and slowed movements. These symptoms usually develop after age 60, although some people affected by Parkinson's disease are younger than age 50.As time passes, the disease grows progressively worse and symptoms persist for the remainder of a patient’s life.

These symptoms include slowness and stiffness on one side of the body, impaired balance and coordination, reduced facial expressions, and soft speech. The onset of this disease appears to have both environmental and genetic factors, and no cure has been found. The main treatment for it is drug therapy, although surgical techniques are also used. Research is continuing into the use of foetal brain tissue implants, but as yet the results are inconclusive.

The quality of life issues, including those related to health, will most probably become one of the central problems of sustainable development in the 21st century. These issues are of paramount importance for both healthy populations and, especially, people affected by chronic disorders. Recent study in the UK has demonstrated that quality of life may not be strongly correlated with severity of Parkinson's disease but is affected by additional factors, such as the patients' access to a support group, the ability to gain the information and quality of contact they require, their use of non-drug therapies, etc.

With time, the needs of the person with Parkinson disease will only increase. The demands on the caregiver will mount.For many people with Parkinson's, the initial response to treatment can be dramatic. Over time, however, the benefits of drugs frequently diminish or become less consistent, although symptoms can usually still be fairly well controlled. In addition to medications, your doctor may also recommend that you try lifestyle changes, such as physical therapy, a healthy diet and exercise.

Treatments that offer relief from symptoms often become less effective as the disease progresses.We still have a long way to go in the treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and Tourettes syndrome," says Lisa M. Shulman, M.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a co-director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Program."It's critical that we continue to look for more effective drugs that can more efficiently manage symptoms and restore function," says Dr. Shulman.

The study, published in the issue of Neurology, included 279 Parkinson's patients who were not responding well to the commonly used drug, levodopa, to manage their symptoms. An epilepsy drug may ease Parkinson's disease symptoms when other drugs fail, according to a study out of Japan.The participants were randomly assigned to take 25, 50 or 100 milligrams a day of the drug zonisamide, or a placebo pill.

At least 30 percent of the participants who took zonisamide experienced a more than 30 percent improvement in a score used to follow the progression of the disease. Those taking 50 milligrams of zonisamide saw the greatest improvements -- an almost 40 percent improvement in their scores.

"Zonisamide treatment improved all main Parkinson's disease symptoms in these patients, including tremor and other disabling dyskinesias. This is consistent with findings from other, smaller studies," lead author Miho Murata, with the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry in Tokyo, said in a prepared statement.

The study lasted only 12 weeks, but the researchers continued to follow a group of 17 of the participants to study the long-term effects of the drug. Those participants were followed for more than a year, and the benefits of zonisamide were maintained during that time.

The most common side effects associated with zonisamide were drowsiness, apathy, weight loss and constipation.

Since it is not fully understood how zonisamide works to help Parkinson's patients, further study is needed.

"Zonisamide is safe, effective and well tolerated at 25 to 100 milligrams a day as an added treatment in patients with Parkinson's disease," Murata said.

The study was supported by Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma, the pharmaceutical company that developed zonisamide.

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