New drug may hold promise for stutterers: trial
By Toni Clarke
BOSTON (Reuters) – When Dr. Gerald Maguire was a child, he
resolved every New Year’s Eve to stop stuttering. The
resolution usually lasted less than two hours.
Now Maguire is helping investigate an experimental new drug
that he believes could offer hope to the more than 3 million
Americans who suffer from the speech disorder.
The drug, pagoclone, is being developed by Indevus
Pharmaceuticals Inc. Results of a 132-patient trial released on
Wednesday showed that 55 percent of patients taking pagoclone
showed a significant improvement in symptoms compared to 36
percent who took a placebo.
Shares of Lexington, Massachusetts-based Indevus rose as
much as 10 percent on Wednesday on the news.
Maguire, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the
University of California Irvine School of Medicine, said
pagoclone, if approved, would be the first drug specifically
designed to treat stuttering.
Today, patients are either not treated, or are treated with
drugs that are not approved for the disorder such as the
benzodiazepine class of anti-anxiety drugs or antipsychotics
such as Zyprexa and Risperdal.
Maguire believes pagoclone may help stutterers without
causing the kind of dependence linked to benzodiazepines or the
weight gain often associated with the newer antipsychotics.
Pagoclone is designed to heighten activity of the brain
chemical GABA, which is thought in turn to block the chemical
dopamine. Dopamine, which is responsible for motion and
movement, is often too high in people who stutter, Maguire
“Stuttering is a neurological disorder that has
psychological consequences,” he said.
For four years, Maguire did not talk on the phone, as his
anxiety overwhelmed his ability to speak. He said the
antipsychotic Zyprexa helps.
The disorder, which affects about 1 percent of the adult
population, normally begins in childhood. About half of
children who develop it grow out of it.
That could be because an area of the brain called the
striatum, which acts as the timer and initiator of speech, does
not fully develop until later in life. Pagoclone is designed to
enhance the functioning of the striatum, Maguire said.
The drug, which was tested in patients for eight weeks, was
not associated with any serious complications, Indevus said.
Indevus said it will meet with the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration to discuss the findings and plans for further
development. By mid-afternoon trading, the company’s shares
were up 3.8 percent at $4.61 on Nasdaq.
(Additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago)