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Nicotine Improves Some Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease


Newhouse says that no one knows whether the drug will be beneficial when it is taken for years. That means that it is too soon to recommend a nicotine patch or gum to Parkinson's patients. "It would be rash to suggest that people go out and buy the patch," he says. The study is slated to be published later this year.

Nicotine's effects on memory suggest that it, or related compounds, also may help treat Alzheimer's patients. In three preliminary studies testing this possibility, nicotine, or a nicotine look-alike drug called ABT-418, improved the performance of Alzheimer's patients on tests of memory and attention.

Nicotine analogs also proved effective against Tourette's syndrome, Sanberg says. In initial studies conducted several years ago, Sanberg's team had shown that nicotine patch and nicotine gum could ease the symptoms of Tourette's syndrome in children. Such symptoms include facial tics and a tendency to spout repeated obscenities.

At the meeting, Sanberg presented recent results from a new study that tested the effects of a drug called mecamylamine on children aged 8 to 17 with Tourette's syndrome. Mecamylamine, which works in a similar way to nicotine, is FDA approved to treat high blood pressure and is sold under the name Inversine.

The researcher tested 70 children who had fairly severe symptoms and who were also taking the Tourette's drug, Haldol (haloperidol). Layton Bioscience has plans to market mecamylamine, Sanberg says.

Two weeks of daily mecamylamine pills reduced Tourette's symptoms, while placebo pills had no effect. Although the FDA has not yet approved mecamylamine to treat Tourette's, nicotine patches seem to have the same effect, says Sanberg.

"The data says that if [children with severe symptoms] aren't being treated with other medications, that the nicotine patch might be useful," he says.

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