A drug that could change the way we treat Parkinson's disease just got approved

A new drug that aims to treat a serious symptom of Parkinson’s disease just got approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The drug, called Nuplazid, was developed by Acadia Pharmaceuticals. It’s designed to treat psychosis, a symptom of Parkinson’s that can involve hallucinations and delusions, and it’s the first of its kind to ever get approved by the FDA.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by motor symptoms such as shaking in the hands and legs, as well as stiffness and impaired balance.

But up to 50% of those with Parkinson’s are estimated to experience psychosis symptoms at some point as well.

In an advisory committee meeting, held in March, focused on data from a late-stage, six-week clinical trial of Nuplazid in 199 patients, which suggested that the drug may benefit those with PDP. Of the 199, about half were given Nuplazid in addition to any other Parkinson’s treatment they were currently using, while the other were given a placebo. None of the participants were allowed to take any other form of antipsychotic.

“Nuplazid was shown to be superior to placebo in decreasing the frequency and/or severity of hallucinations and delusions without worsening the primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” the FDA said in a release following its approval of the drug.

Before now, there were no approved treatments specifically for Parkinson’s disease psychosis, or PDP, and clinical trials looking at the use of traditional antipsychotics to treat PDP suggest that they’re not particularly effective. Analysts estimate at least a $1 billion market for the drug.

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