Merck discontinues development of Parkinson’s disease drug

May 27, 2013 | By Márcio Barra

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t the only neurologic disease that is hard to find a cure. Parkinson’s disease is an equally tough match, with current treatments, like dopamine agonists, only aimed at symptom relief. In what are sour news for patients, a promising new drug failed to prove successful in treating Parkinson.

Last Thursday, Merck released a press statement declaring that it stopped the development of Preladenant, an investigational Parkinson’s disease medicine which acted as a selective antagonist at the adenosine A2A receptor, responsible for regulating glutamate and dopamine release in the brain.

The development was discontinued after the medicine failed to prove better than a placebo in three separate Phase III studies, two of which assessed Preladenant alongside levodopa in patients with moderate-to-severe Parkinson, and one assessed Preladenant as monotherapy in early Parkinson. No safety issues were reported, according to the company.

The results of these studies will be presented at an upcoming scientific meeting and will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. While disheartening news, It’s important that pharma companies continue to push forward in unmet medical needs treatment. Hopefully the publication will shed some light on why did Preladenant fail.


Merck’s press release

  1. Deborah Jeffries said:

    I am a 45 year old diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease that my second opinion neurologist a Parkinson’s specialist believes was caused by a brain injury I suffered in 2005 after being struck by a car. He believes I have a genetic mutation and would’ve developed it in my elderly years but the brain injury caused the disease to occur prematurely. I’ve had the disease since the impact almost 9 years. Why is it that drug companies make breakthrough treatments for MS yet nothing new for the millions of us who suffer with this disease? I think it may have to do with the fact that PD is labeled a geriatric disorder. This must change I am proof that you can get it younger under certain circumstances. We demand more research and development to aid in our suffering!

  2. Hello Deborah!

    First, let me say that my thoughts and prayers are with you. I can only imagine the burden that is to have Parkinson’s at such an early age.
    I am only a student, 21 years old, and thus I have never worked for the pharmaceutical industry. My thoughts are based from what I read, I can’t really comment on the inner workings of big pharmaceutical companies.

    Multiple Sclerosis nowadays is a big market for pharma companies, as there is still “space”, if you will, for new medicines. Parkinson’s disease has multiple medicines of many different classes (mechanisms of action), so it’s a bit crowded for new medicines that don’t present any new innovation. There are many different medicines for alleviating Parkinson’s symptoms, but still no cure. Multiple sclerosis still has few medicines available, so there’s less competition, and none of them cure it, similar to Parkinson.

    The situation must indeed change. Pharmaceutical companies have social responsibility, and must continue forward developing new treatments for Parkinson. We can’t have companies abandoning the development of new treatments for brain disorders just because they are tough targets. The fact that Parkinson’s disease also affects younger people should also be taken in account, as it compromises people who are still in a working age.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Márcio Barra

  3. Deborah Jeffries said:

    This is Deborah Jeffries again from Stamford, CT USA. Thank you for your kind response. Yes having Parkinson’s Disease at age 45 that’s advancing is extremely difficult. Estimates vary between 15 to 20 percent of PD patients in the US are under 50 and many more are misdiagnosed and don’t know they have it like I was. This disease cut me down in the prime of my life. You’re right about the medications. I take Mirapex which helps with two main motor symptoms. There are serious symptoms it has no effect on. The dopamine agonists and Sinemet also are effective for about 5 years with terrible side effects. I’m on an agonist which makes me constantly fall asleep. What we patients are asking for is a medication that will at least slow it down to buy us more time and more functioning days.

  4. Deborah Jeffries said:

    I wanted to add that in the US they are touting “stem cell therapy” as a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. I’m not a fan of this and after researching it, it has major problems. I have potentially life threatening complications due to choking and aspiration. Parkinson’s patients like me are in a weakened state and couldn’t take the anti-rejection meds required also stem cell therapy can cause malignancies to develop. In closing, it’s not a cure nor permanent it temporarily turns back the clock and then the disease starts the death of the transplanted dopamine producing neurons again so we’re back to square one. Too risky without enough long-term benefit.

  5. Deborah Jeffries said:

    One more addition to the subject, prior to my being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease I knew very little about the disease. I’ve made it a commitment to research and learn as much as I can about what’s going on in my own body because knowledge is power. Any person with the disease should be wary of some websites pushing “natural cures”. I’ve read some pretty crazy things. In my case I had no choice but to start medication as I likely would be unable to walk outdoors with a cane without it. These sites are pushing radical agendas and aren’t based on medical evidence. PD patients need to be careful and run any alternative treatments by their neurologist.

  6. Thank you for your precious input! Indeed any patient must be wary of treatments that they find in the internet. Consulting a neurologist is the best, and saffest bet a patient with signs of PD can have. Proper use of the Internet, like in your case, has made you very well informed and with something to say regarding your disease. When I was 11 years old I had a Unicameral Bone Cyst on my Femur that shattered, leaving immobilized for almost half a year. Nowadays I try and research as much as possible on new developments regarding this condition, a bit like yourself. Have you considered joining a PD patient association?

  7. Deborah Jeffries said:

    Yes I’ve joined several Parkinson’s Disease organizations and blogs and am cautious with internet info lucky I have a very good neurologist. Recently changed my position on stem cell therapy, I would consider it despite the cancer risk at this point in my disease. Though Sinemet helps, still have my bad days when I consume too much protein it doesn’t work as well and we all know it’s not a cure.

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