Olanow was enthusiastic about the results. "This doesn't prove unequivocally that it [rasagiline] is neuroprotective, but there is no other rational explanation for the results," he said. "This is good news for Parkinson's patients."
Asked if he would prescribe the drug for that reason, Olanow said, "Yes, I would personally prescribe it."
A much more skeptical response came from Dr. William J. Weiner, chair of neurology at the University of Maryland, who took part in the study.
"The authors were very careful in the paper not to indicate that they had shown neuroprotection," Weiner said. "The tone of the article itself is moderate."
The methods used to determine trial results need scrutiny, he said. "They used a lot of very fancy mathematical models, some of which had not been used before," Weiner said. "Most neurologists wouldn't understand the mathematical models they used. Research neurologists don't deal with equations about the slope of curves."
And the end results were not impressive, he maintained. "The difference reported in the study is less than two points on a scale that has 150 points," Weiner said.
The reason why the lower dose worked, and the higher one didn't? "It simply could be luck," he said.
While rasagiline can provide benefits in reducing symptoms of early Parkinson's disease, Weiner said he was worried that "patients will be given what I believe to be false hopes" by the new study.
"It has mild symptomatic effects, but I do not prescribe this drug for neuroprotection and this study doesn't convince me to do that," Weiner said.
Several of the study authors have received consulting or lecturing fees from pharmaceutical companies, including Teva, the
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