Flu Drug Speeds Brain Injury Recovery: Amantadine Hydrochloride Appears to Speed Recovery in Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

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A recent study announced that amantadine hydrochloride may actually speed recovery in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.  Amantadine hydrochloride, is not new on the market, as it is a drug typically used to prevent and treat the flu as well as side effects caused by drugs and Parkinson’s disease.

In the study TBI patients “who weren’t fully conscious and were discharged to rehabilitation facilities after hospitalization were given amantadine hydrochloride”. Patients taking amantadine (the experimental group) scored better on behavioral tests that measure brain functioning than the control (or placebo group) according to reports in the March 1 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was comprised of 184 patients, who had suffered from a TBI within the previous one to four months. Half the patients received amantadine, the other half received a placebo. The study lasted for six weeks, and the placebo group received the placebo for the first four weeks of the study.

The co-author Joseph Giacino, Director of Rehabilitation Neuropsychology at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in Boston, and an associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical said that the individuals receiving the amantadine treatment appeared to recover more quickly than those on the placebo.

Dr. John Whyte, Director of the Moss Rehabilitation Institute at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, in the Philadelphia area shares that this study is the first placebo-controlled trial of the drug in patients of minimal consciousness and/or vegetative state.

While the study does offer promise, it is important to realize that there is still research to be done. The study appears to have shown some success, however it was also found that by the sixth week the difference between the control and experimental group was much smaller.  Furthermore, Dr. Whyte notes that by the end of the study the baseline improvement between the control and experimental group was identical.

Mary Brophy March reports  in MedicineNet.com:

The ability of patients in a vegetative state or those in the MCS “to access rehab has gotten less and less,” Whyte said. “Many of these patients go straight to a nursing home or home with family.” He noted that TBI remains the most common cause of death and disability in people between the ages of 15 and 30

To read more about this study as reported by MedicalNet click here.

About Penny R Miller, MS, LPC, CBIS

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