Health Watch: Ketamine Stills Parkinson's

Sunday, December 2, 2018
Ketamine Stills Parkinson's
Ketamine Stills Parkinson's

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Levodopa is the best-known treatment for Parkinson's, but it can cause some other debilitating side effects. Now, researchers at the University of Arizona are testing an old drug, in addition to levodopa to see if it brings relief.

Sharon Kha started taking levodopa for Parkinson's in 2005. Now she has dyskinesia, uncontrollable movements of the body.

Kha shared, "It is so frustrating when you start having these large involuntary movements, because they're intrusive."

Neuroscientist Torsten Falk's research indicates that the anesthetic ketamine eases dyskinesia in rodents and also in five Parkinson's patients who were already taking it for pain relief.

"In a way, it's almost like a reset button where you get a treatment and you have weeks to months-long benefit," said Torsten Falk, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology and Pharmacology at the University of Arizona.

Repurposing ketamine for dyskinesia could get it to patients quicker. It's already been safety tested at higher doses than Falk plans to test.

"If you start with something fresh and new, the problem can really be that it can be five to ten years of safety testing before you can really do a proper trial to look for efficacy," explained Falk.

Kha says this is great news. "It sounds like a wonderful treatment because these large involuntary movements are so irritating."

Falk hopes to start a phase one trial in the coming months.

Ketamine can raise blood pressure and cause feelings of dissociation in higher doses. Researchers expect the dosage needed to control dyskinesia will be much lower than that.