UK-wide trial to test treatment for balance, walking and falls

The trial will test whether treatment with a commonly prescribed dementia drug can improve balance and walking, and help to prevent falls in people with Parkinson's.

The new 3 year trial is due to start in early 2019 and is funded through a £2.1million grant from the National Institute of Health Research.

Led by Dr Emily Henderson, it will recruit 600 patients across 26 UK hospitals to determine whether a drug, known as a cholinesterase inhibitor (ChEi) is helpful for people with Parkinson's.

People with Parkinson's often have issues with unsteadiness when walking and as part of the condition. They may also have lower levels of acetylcholine, a chemical which helps us to concentrate – making it more difficult to pay attention to walking.

Cholinesterase inhibitors help to restore acetylcholine levels in the brain and improve attention which may help improve walking and reduce risk of falls.

If successful, this treatment will improve the lives of people living with Parkinson's now and has the potential to be tested in other groups of patients who are at high risk of falling. We are working hard to tackle one of the most disabling complications of Parkinson’s.
Dr Emily Henderson

Results from a previous trial led by Dr Henderson and funded by Parkinson's UK, published in 2016, helped highlight the promise of this medication to reduce falls and improve walking.

Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, said:

"We know that identifying a treatment for balance and falls has the potential to transform the lives of people living with Parkinson's, by increasing their independence and confidence when out of the house.

"And in a recent survey, people affected by the condition told us that balance and falls was their highest priority area for research to address.

"That’s why it's really encouraging to see this research quickly entering larger scale trials, which, if successful, should lead to an urgently needed new treatment for people with Parkinson's."