(NaturalNews) The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has initiated a large-scale clinical trial to study whether a drug based on the organic acid creatine can be used to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease on patients in the disease's early stages.
Creatine is an acid naturally produced by the body for regulating cell energy. Because some evidence suggests it may have antioxidant properties, creatine is also marketed as a nutritional supplement. According to Avicena Group, Inc. -- the biotechnology company supplying the creatine and placebo for the NINDS study -- the drug being tested is significantly different from over-the-counter creatine supplements.
"There is a critical distinction between the pharmaceutical-grade creatine formulation that is being used in this Parkinson's disease trial and the creatine that may be sold over-the-counter in retail stores. It is unwise for Parkinson's patients to conclude that the common form of creatine has any clinical benefits," cautioned lead researcher Karl Kieburtz.
The NINDS study is double-blind and placebo-controlled, meaning that half of the 1,720 participants will be given the creatine drug and half will be given a placebo, but neither the patients nor the researchers will know until the end who is in which group. The progression of the disease will be determined over the course of five to seven years by means of tests that measure ability to walk and carry out other daily activities, cognitive function, and general quality of life.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative brain disorder involving the death of brain cells that produce the movement-regulating neurotransmitter dopamine. Symptoms of Parkinson's include tremors, stiffness, slow movement and problems with balance. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, approximately 1.5 million people are affected by Parkinson's disease in the United States alone, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed yearly.
"This study is an important step toward developing a therapy that could change the course of this devastating disease," said NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni. "The goal is to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson's for a longer period of time than as possible with existing therapies."
According to conventional medicine, there is no known cure for Parkinson's disease, and no treatment proven to slow the disease's progression. Alternative medicine treatments, however, offer several different options for preventing and treating Parkinson's.