Parkinson's, flu medication helps heal traumatic brain injury: NEJM study

Amantadine hydrochloride, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness, may promote functional recovery after traumatic brain injury according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine today indicated that the drug amantadine hydrochloride accelerated the speed of functional recovery during active treatment in patients with post-traumatic disorders of consciousness, including those in vegetative and minimally conscious states.

The study focused on 184 patients at 11 clinical trial sites in three countries, with JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, NJ, and MossRehab in Philadelphia, PA, serving as the lead centers. Patients in the study had been in a vegetative or minimally conscious state between four and 16 weeks after having a traumatic brain injury. According to the results of the study, those patients who received amantadine had significantly faster recovery speeds than those patients in the placebo group. Patients were randomly assigned to either the amantadine group or the placebo group. They were given either amantadine or the placebo for four weeks, and they were then followed for two weeks after treatment was ceased.

Amantadine hydrochloride, the article in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated, is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness after traumatic brain injury.

Joseph T. Giacino, Ph.D, the lead researcher on the study who now serves as Director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, said in a release by Spaulding, "The results of this study provide convincing evidence that it is possible to increase the speed of recovery from severe traumatic brain injury when treatment is initiated within four months of onset. These findings engender optimism for a medical condition that is often viewed as untreatable."

John Whyte, M.D., Ph.D, Director of Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, and co-leader on the study, hopes that the results of this study will lead to additional research on the possibilities of amantadine.

"Now that we know that amantadine can accelerate neurologic recovery, we need to explore the dose and treatment schedule that provides the greatest and most durable treatment impact," Dr. Whyte emphasized. "Importantly, this study adds to the growing evidence that patients with disorders of consciousness have rehabilitation potential that we are just beginning to tap."

The complete study article, "Placebo-Controlled Trial of Amantadine for Severe Traumatic Brain Injury,” is available at the New England Journal of Medicine website.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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