Amantadine Speeds Recovery From Consciousness Disorders

Benefits in functional recovery only seen during active treatment

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Amantadine improves the rate of functional recovery during active treatment in patients with severe traumatic brain injury, according to a study published in the March 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Joseph T. Giacino, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues enrolled 184 patients who were in a vegetative or minimally conscious state four to 16 weeks after traumatic brain injury and who were receiving inpatient rehabilitation. Patients were randomly assigned to receive amantadine or placebo for four weeks and were followed for two weeks after the treatment was discontinued. The Disability Rating Scale (DRS; range, 0 to 29, with higher scores indicating greater disability) was used to assess the rate of functional recovery.

The researchers found that, during the treatment period, recovery was significantly faster in the amantadine group than in the placebo group (difference in slope for DRS score of 0.24 points per week). A prespecified subgroup analysis showed that the treatment effect was similar for patients in a vegetative state and those in a minimally conscious state. The rate of improvement in patients who received amantadine slowed during the two weeks after treatment and was significantly slower than the rate of improvement in patients who received placebo. The overall improvement in DRS scores from baseline to two weeks after discontinuation of treatment was similar between the groups, and there were no significant differences in the incidence of serious adverse events between the groups.

"Amantadine accelerated the pace of functional recovery during active treatment in patients with post-traumatic disorders of consciousness," the authors write.

One of the study authors disclosed financial relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

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