A recent study sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research showed that administration of daily doses of a drug commonly used to help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease resulted in a small but definite improvement in the rates at which their brain injuries healed. While far from being a cure for traumatic brain injuries, these results nonetheless hold great promise in that they help identify mechanisms for more significant healing and new paths for additional research and drug development.
The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and describe how the use of amantadine hydrochloride produced a statistically significant improvement in the recovery rates from brain injuries. A total of 184 brain injury victims from multiple clinics around the world were administered either a placebo or daily doses of amantadine. This type of “blind” study, in which even the treating physicians don’t know which patients are receiving the test medication and which are not, helps to produce results that can be evaluated for their statistical relevance. The patients were also carefully evaluated so that both groups had similar numbers of patients with similar severities of brain injury. After receiving either amantadine or the placebo for a month, all the patients in both groups were re-evaluated to determine changes in their level of consciousness and disability. As expected, most of the patients showed improvement over time, since their brain injuries were recent and normal healing processes were taking place. However, on a scale running from 0 to 29 — from no disability to complete unresponsiveness — those patients who received the amantadine showed a 2-point improvement over those receiving the placebo.
“The main finding is that on every single behavioral domain measured, we had a higher incidence of recovery in the amantadine group than in the placebo group,” said Dr. Joseph T. Giacino of the J. F. K. Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, NJ, who led the research group along with Dr. John Whyte of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, in Elkins Park, PA.
Although it was long suspected that amantadine and similar drugs had a positive benefit in promoting brain injury healing, this was the first study in which the numbers of patients and the rigorousness of the study protocols were sufficient to prove this was the case. Tens of thousands of Americans live in conditions of only partial consciousness and thousands more are in complete vegetative states. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer less severe ongoing consequences of traumatic brain injuries including concussions, bleeds and strokes. Positive and definite results such as from this study offer hope to brain injury victims and their families. They also provide evidence to help bolster arguments that insurance companies should provide coverage for the cost of medications such as amantadine that have shown positive benefits.
The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith has extensive experience helping clients who have suffered the devastating effects of traumatic brain injuries. Keeping as up-to-date as possible on medical research that may hold promise for personal injury victims is critically important.