New Drugs for Stuttering May Be On the Horizon
Gerald A. Maguire, M.D.
University of California,
Irvine School of Medicine
From the Stuttering Foundation's summer 2007 newsletter
A medication for stuttering? This question has plagued clinicians for years with the general consensus that it could never be attained. With advancements in neuropharmacology, medical science is now closer than ever in the development of medication treatment for stuttering.
In the last ten years, studies suggest that dopamine-blocking medications are effective in reducing stuttering symptoms.
These studies employed the gold-standard of being placebo-controlled and double-blind (meaning that the subjects and clinicians did not know if the specific individuals were receiving a real pill or a fake pill).
These studies were of relatively limited subject size so further research is warranted before these medications are to be routinely used in stuttering.
No one medication is without the potential of side-effects and this class of medication is associated with weight gain and the potential for blood sugar increases.
However, a novel medication, pagoclone, holds promise as an effective, well-tolerated medication for the treatment of stuttering.
Pagoclone is a medication under development from Indevus Pharmaceuticals.
In May 2006, Indevus released results of the largest pharmacologic trial of stuttering ever completed. Pagoclone affects a natural neurochemical in the brain known as GABA which has been postulated to play a significant role in stuttering.
The study utilized a double-blind, randomized design of over 130 adult individuals who stutter. Pagoclone was found to improve stuttering symptoms in over 50 percent of the individuals treated "statistically greater" than those receiving a placebo.
Pagoclone was found to be well-tolerated with only minor side-effects of headache and fatigue reported in a minority of those treated.
In this study, pagoclone not only improved the fluency of speech but also reduced the social anxiety that often accompanies stuttering. More studies of this compound are being planned, and Indevus is working closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to achieve approval so that this medication may one day be routinely available from a physician's prescription.
For the time being, it is only available as part of a research study. The next study of pagoclone will begin this summer, and one can learn more by accessing www.stutteringstudy.com.
In addition, the University of California, Irvine, has received a generous gift from the philanthropists, Granville and Sidney Kirkup, which will support further research on the medical treatment of stuttering.
The University of California, Irvine will participate as a site in the pagoclone study, but will also be investigating other medications for the treatment of stuttering as well.
For further information, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even though medications for stuttering may be on the horizon, no form of therapy for stuttering is a cure. Therefore, future treatment will likely involve the combination of medication with speech therapy to achieve the optimal results.