Atlanta study examines why Parkinson's patients struggle with sleep

Doctors at NeuroTrials Research in Atlanta are testing a drug that could help Parkinson's disease patients who struggle with sleep.

Gunther Eichler, 73, can't fall asleep at night and fights to stay awake during the day.

"I can be sitting here talking to you, and my eyes will close and I can fall asleep," Eichler told 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.

The Alpharetta resident was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 14 years ago but just recently began struggling with sleep.

Doctors have debated whether it's the disease or medication that can make it so hard for patients with Parkinson's to get a good night's sleep.

"What will happen eventually is their disease symptoms and so forth will become significantly amplified," said Dr. Michael Lacey of NeuroTrials Research in Atlanta.

He is leading a clinical trial of a medication that could bring relief.

It's a wake-promoting drug that's already in the pipeline for FDA approval for obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

"Sleep is incredibly important for everyone, but is especially important for people with various neurodegenerative type conditions," Dr. Lacey added.

Doctors at NeuroTrials are accepting people to participate in the study who are 35-80 years old, are on stable treatment for their Parkinson’s yet experience excessive sleepiness.

They must be otherwise healthy and may be compensated for time and travel. 

“This is the first study to focus on improving the quality of life for Parkinson’s patients by looking at the links between the disease and sleep,” said Dr. Russell Rosenberg, NeuroTrials Research founder and CEO. “Instead of focusing on the cure, in this unique proof of concept study, we’re trying to better patient’s lifestyle. They can stay on their current medication if they’re stable and that’s a very comforting situation for them.”

Parkinson’s disease affects up to one million people in the U.S. and doctors diagnose up to 60,000 new cases annually.

Typically striking men 50 percent more than women, the average age of onset is 60, but early onset, beginning before age 50, accounts for five to 10 percent of cases. 

For more information, call NeuroTrials Research at 404-851-9934.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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