Health Beat: Blood pressure medication for Parkinson's

Health Beat: Blood pressure medication for Parkinson's

SAN DIEGO - Dr. David Higgins lives a busy and active life, but a few years ago, some mysterious symptoms threatened to slow him down.

"I was having trouble swimming, and I was having trouble running," Higgins said. "Stiffness, soreness, lack of control,"

Higgins was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a disease that affects movement.

"It does not make me feel good about the future," Higgins said.

But neurologist Dr. Irene Litvan said the future is looking brighter for people like Higgins.

She's studying a new therapy for Parkinson's that's already being used to treat high blood pressure

"So the good thing is multiple people have taken it," said Litvan, professor of neurology at UC San Diego Department of Neural Science and director of the Movement Disorder Center.

Isradipine works by blocking calcium channels in the body. Researchers believe calcium may be over-expressed in people with Parkinson's. Animal studies show calcium blockers may slow Parkinson's, and people who take the drug for high blood pressure are less likely to develop the disease.

"Hopefully, it will slow the progression of the disease, and ideally, it would stop the progression of the disease," Litvan said.

A Phase II study found it was safe to use in Parkinson's patients. Now, a larger trial will determine if isradipine can slow the disease. Higgins is hopeful.

"There is hope for more effective therapies and perhaps even a cure," said Higgins.

Until then, he'll stay as active as he can for as long as he can.

Litvan said patients would probably have to take the medication for the rest of their lives to benefit. Researchers are still enrolling patients in this clinical trial.

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