Reports of Death Spark Concern About Parkinson's Drugs

CNN reports that a therapy that was once promoted as a major Parkinson’s disease breakthrough has been linked to hundreds of adverse events and a number of deaths. 

Acadia Pharmaceuticals thought they had a cash cow on their hands when their drug Nuplazid was fast-tracked through the FDA review process. About 200 drugs have taken advantage of this expedited process, which is only granted to medications that are designated as “breakthrough” therapies and provide substantial benefits to seriously ill patients. Nuplazid, which can cost $30,000 per year if taken daily, was touted as a silver bullet that would help Parkinson’s sufferers who deal with debilitating psychosis. 

There were warning signs that Nuplazid might not be the miracle drug it was made out to be. Dr. Paul Andreason, who led the FDA medical review, warned that patients taking the powerful drug were experiencing serious adverse events, including death, twice the rate of subjects who were taking the placebo. Also, many of the glowing testimonials were from participants and their families who had no way to know if they had been given the placebo or the actual drug. 

Andreason was not convinced by the anecdotes and was not certain that the benefits outweighed the risks. Despite this, the FDA committee evaluating Nuplazid voted 12-2 in favor of approval. This confirmation was based on a six-week study that involved only 200 patients. This positive result apparently outweighed three previous studies that found the drug’s performance lackluster. 

The FDA still stands by their decision to approve the drug and have argued that Nuplazid is the first drug that helps the 50 percent of Parkinson’s sufferers who deal with psychosis. Naturally, Acadia has come to the defense of their product and would suffer financially if it were to fail. They claim that the high death toll is due to the fact that psychosis is most common in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. Another factor, found outlined in Acadia’s full response to critics, is that Nuplazid patients are in more frequent contact with the specialty pharmacies that distribute the drug. This makes the reporting of adverse events more likely.  

Nuplazid is a classic example of allopathic medicine at its most dysfunctional — a fast-tracked approval process, questionable science and an approach that emphasizes treating symptoms rather than causes.  The later stages of Parkinson’s and the psychosis it may induce are quite serious, but is Nuplazid really the only option? 

The fact is that nature’s pharmacy deserves more attention and research dollars. There are a number of alternative treatments to Parkinson’s that have shown considerable promise. Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease caused by a steady depletion of dopamine-producing nerve cells, particularly in the area of your brain referred to as the substantia nigra. Most of the current drug treatments for Parkinson's disease, known as dopamine agonists, focus on replenishing dopamine.

Although such treatments provide symptomatic relief during early Parkinson's disease, they are ineffective in the long term where they may actually increase symptoms such as tremor, postural instability and cognitive deficits that are common with this disease. Curcumin is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which is one reason why it holds promise as a neuroprotective agent in a wide range of neurological disorders. Researchers have investigated curcumin for its potential role in improving Parkinson's disease.

The long-term solution to improving health outcomes is to prevent Parkinson’s disease in the first place. It turns out that Parkinson’s is linked to a number of lifestyle factors that can be modified. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to protect against the onset of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. It is also crucial that you optimize your vitamin D levels and get plenty of sunshine. Another preventative measure is to make sure your body has healthy levels of iron and manganese. 

The risk of Parkinson’s disease clearly increases with exposure to certain environmental toxins, such as pesticides. Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are potent toxicants that may cause disruptions or damage to the neurological system, including your brain. Eating a nourishing diet of sustainably sourced foods is an excellent way to boost your immune system and lower your toxic load. 
 
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