Parkinson's Treatment Lessens Side Effect

A relatively new drug for treating Parkinson's disease produces less of a debilitating side effect than the most widely prescribed drug used for the disorder, new research showed yesterday.

The study compared the widely used levadopa with the newer drug Requip, made by SmithKline Beecham, which has its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. Requip was approved by the federal government just two years ago while levadopa, also known as Sinemet, has been available for 35 years and is given to 75 percent of patients.

Levadopa is the most effective treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson's, which include tremors, slow movement, rigidity and poor balance. But it has a side effect -- involuntary body movements.

For most patients, this is mostly a social embarrassment. But in some patients, "it can be even more troublesome, preventing you from being able to eat or to sit up in a chair," Rascol said.

Requip is one of a promising new class of drugs called dopamine agonists. They still have side effects, including confusion, upset stomach, lightheadedness, hallucinations and sleepiness, but they are not as disabling as the involuntary body movements.

The five-year study, presented by Oliver Rascol of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Toulouse, France, at a medical conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, shows that treating patients with Requip at the outset, and using levadopa only when Parkinson's symptoms become bad enough to require the stronger drug, resulted in fewer involuntary body movements than the common treatment of using levadopa from the beginning.

Prompt Angioplasty Helps Elderly After Heart Attack

Elderly heart-attack patients who underwent an angioplasty procedure soon after the onset of symptoms had modestly better survival rates than those who were given drugs, researchers said yesterday.

A study of 20,683 Medicare patients who arrived at a hospital within 12 hours of when symptoms began and were treated within six hours of their arrival were checked at the end of a month and after one year.

Yale University School of Medicine researcher Alan Berger said angioplasty patients had a 27 percent lower risk of death after 30 days and a 19 percent lower risk of death after one year, compared to patients treated with clot-dissolving drugs.

Angioplasty is a procedure in which an inflatable balloon is threaded through partially blocked coronary arteries to widen them and improve blood flow to the heart.

However, among a subgroup of patients seen as benefiting from either treatment, the difference between angioplasty and drug therapy was not statistically significant after a year, the study showed.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.