First new molecule for a decade, but Alzheimer’s still posing challenges as antibody treatment withdrawn from trials

The first new drug in 10 years for Parkinson’s disease has been recommended for approval by the European Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP). If the European commission follows this recommendation, then Xadago (safinamide), made by Italian firms Newron and Zambon, will be available to patients with mid to late stage Parkinson’s as an add-on to existing therapies.

The drug works by both inhibiting monoamine oxidase B (which degrades dopamine and is often overexpressed in Parkinson’s), and by blocking sodium channels that inhibit glutamate release (which are implicated in dyskinesia – the loss of fine motor control).

However, central nervous system diseases remain particularly tricky to develop drugs for, as shown by the latest clinical failure of an antibody treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Roche has discontinued a Phase III trial of gantenerumab as it proved ineffective at preventing disease progression.