Parkinson's patients

  1. Parkinson's outrage: Meds don't work

    Parkinson's patients will tell you the worst part of the disease isn't always the infamous shakes that mark the condition.

    As bad as those are, there's something that can be even worse: Losing your grip on reality to the hallucinations, confusion, and delusional thinking that often come along for the ride.

    It's a frightening form of psychosis that strikes up to 60 percent of all Parkinson's patients -- and it's almost always caused by Parkinson's drugs.

    But instead of lowering the dose or changing the med, docs often prescribe powerful antipsychotic drugs -- and a new study shows that a full 98 percent of those meds don't even work.

    These are drugs with literally no clinical evidence of effectiveness, period -- and some of them are even known to make the Parkinson's symptoms worse.

    Researchers looked at the records of 2,500 patients given meds for Parkinson's psychosis at VA hospitals in 2008 and
    found that half of them were prescribed quetiapine, also known as Seroquel.

    That's the schizophrenia med given off-label for everything from insomnia to dementia -- often with disastrous results.

    There's no evidence it works for any of those off-label conditions -- and there are no less than four studies that show it does nothing for Parkinson's psychosis. But some of Big Pharma's favorite docs won't let a little science stand in their way -- they're using the drug anyway.

    One doctor not involved in the study told Reuters Health that even though there's no evidence behind Seroquel, many
    docs have had at least some anecdotal success using it... so they'll ignore the research and keep right on dishing it out.

    And even the author of the study in the Archives of Neurology admits to prescribing it -- and says he plans to continue to do so.

    Imagine the uproar if an alternative health doc announced his insistence on using treatments scientifically proven not to work. Heck, the feds would probably shut the guy down for quackery -- but somehow, mainstream docs get a free pass.

    And believe it or not, Seroquel sounds downright reasonable compared to some of the other meds given for Parkinson's psychosis.

    The researchers say a combined 28 percent of prescriptions were for either risperidone (Risperdal) or olanzapine(Olanzipine) -- two drugs that not only do nothing for the psychosis... they're actually known to make the Parkinson's disease worse.

    That's not just inexcusable -- that's malpractice.

    Parkinson's patients often don't have many options for the disease itself -- but a new study finds real promise in traditional Chinese medicine.

  2. Yin vs. yang in Parkinson's treatment

    Centuries before James Parkinson described the "shaking palsy" that would later bear his name, the Chinese were already treating the condition they called "the shakes" with a simple herb.

    But gou teng is more than just a folk remedy with a funny name: A new study shows this stuff might have the power to help tame or even beat Parkinson's disease.

    Researchers in Hong Kong gave 115 Parkinson's patients either a blend of traditional herbs including gou teng, or a placebo, for 13 weeks, and found that those who got the traditional treatment had better sleep, improvements in speech, and a lower risk of depression.

    Even better, the patients who took the herbs along with the Parkinson's drug levodopa suffered fewer of the med's notorious side effects -- including hallucinations and delusional thinking.

    The researchers didn't stop with the clinical trial -- they also isolated the compounds in the herb and ran some tests to see if they could figure out what makes it work so well.

    And they may have found it.

    Hidden inside gou teng is an alkaloid called isorhy, which researchers say may have the power to normalize the cell death process that often goes haywire in the brains of Parkinson's patients.

    That's the scientific explanation, anyway.

    In traditional Chinese medicine, the description gets a little strange. I read one that explained how gou teng increases yin to counterbalance too much yang.

    That's a little "out there" for most of us here in the West -- but it's considered a perfectly reasonable explanation in the world of traditional Chinese medicine, where the balance between yin and yang is believed to play a key role in health.

    Those yins and yangs must be pretty busy, too: Gou teng has been used in China to treat high blood pressure, tinnitus, headaches, sleep problems, and more.

    The one caveat here is that the research team behind the Parkinson's study has also applied for a U.S. patent for their herbal blend, and plan to bring it to market here after a second phase of the study ends in 2013.

    That's a big enough conflict that I'd want to see more independent research on this before anyone starts taking gou teng -- but if it really works, I'm sure plenty of Parkinson's patients would be willing to balance their yins and yangs.

  3. Promising vitamin slows Parkinson's

    There's nothing worse than a Big Pharma med that takes advantage of a captive audience – like the drugs many Parkinson's patients take that really only offer one kind of relief: they relieve the patients of their money.

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