A New Treatment for Huntington’s Disease?

New Huntingtons Disease Treatment

Huntington’s disease is a rare, inherited disease that causes the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and currently has no cure. The symptoms can show up at any point in life but most often start between the ages of 30 and 50. However, it can develop as late in life as one’s 80s.[1] The time from diagnosis to death ranges from 10 to 30 years, so someone diagnosed in midlife could live through their golden years with Huntington’s. Though doctors can treat the symptoms with medications and lifestyle adjustments, there is no way to stop the decline.[2]

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Huntington’s disease is caused by a single, inherited gene on the fourth chromosome. This gene is a dominant one, which means that anyone who inherits it will develop Huntington’s. Though symptoms may point to a diagnosis of Huntington’s, the only way to get a certain diagnosis is through genetic testing.

The symptoms of Huntington’s can be disconcerting and include chorea, which are uncontrolled physical movements that lead to problems with coordination, posture, the ability to walk, and speech. A mobile medical alert with fall detection would be helpful for patients. Medications to ease the symptoms can help, and scientists are coming up with potential new treatments. A promising new drug is currently up for FDA approval.

The New Treatment for Huntington’s Disease

Valbenazine, a new drug offered by Neurocrine Biosciences, is now being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval for those with Huntington’s disease.[3] Specifically, the drug is meant to treat chorea.

Valbenazine, sold by brand name Ingrezza, is already approved to treat tardive dyskinesia, which is a movement disorder of facial tics. This new approval would allow the company to change the packaging, labeling, ingredients, dosage, and indications of the therapy to suit those who have chorea as a result of Huntington’s disease – which accounts for 90% of those diagnosed.

The drug works by blocking a particular protein that controls how dopamine acts in the brain. Since dopamine is vital for coordinating movement, blocking that protein is believed to reduce the involuntary movements that come from chorea.

Clinical trials have found that those taking the drug saw significant reduction of their chorea symptoms, as well as an improvement in their general overall health. According to Huntington’s Disease News, the positive changes were observed after only about two weeks of treatment.

The FDA already suspects this drug can be a strong asset for those with Huntington’s, which is why it granted “orphan drug” designation to Valbenazine in 2022. This designation helps speed up the clinical development and regulatory approval of the drug.[4] The FDA expects to make a decision on the request by August 20, 2023.

The Movement Disorders of Huntington’s

Huntington’s disease can cause a wide variety of disorders, including cognitive, psychiatric, and physical. The symptoms that appear first and how quickly they progress depend on the individual. The physical symptoms are targeted by Valbenazine. Chorea can include involuntary movements, such as writhing or jerking. But there are other types of movements that occur with Huntington’s, including[5]:

·         Rigid muscles or muscle contractions

·         Unusual eye movements

·         An impaired gait, balance, and posture

·         Trouble with swallowing and speech

Marked weight loss is also a symptom of Huntington’s that occurs as the disease progresses.

Those who have Huntington’s never know when the symptoms will occur. They might be fine one day and struggling with symptoms the next, though the “good days” become fewer as the disease progresses. It’s important to do what is necessary to stay safe, especially when symptoms are unpredicatable.

Living independently for as long as possible can be bolstered by the use of a medical alert device. This personal emergency button alarm can assure you that if you suffer a fall or other emergency, you can get help to your door right away.

The ability to reach out for help at a moment’s notice can provide some peace of mind as you deal with the increasing symptoms and worries that Huntington’s can bring. It can also give those who love you their own peace of mind, as they know that if you do suffer some sort of emergency while you are alone, you have the ability to get help fast.

Other Disorders of Huntington’s Disease

Cognitive disorders also affect those with Huntington’s. According to the Mayo Clinic, these can include difficulty with concentration, lacking awareness of behaviors, lack of impulse control, slowness in processing thoughts, or trouble learning new information, among others. Psychiatric symptoms can include depression, bipolar disorder, mania, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Treatment for Huntington’s Symptoms

In addition to medications, there are some lifestyle changes that might help alleviate some of the symptoms. Here are some of the options a doctor might explore for someone with Huntington’s:

·         In addition to Valbenazine, other drugs that help with chorea include tetrabenazine and deutetrabenazine. Antipsychotic drugs can help suppress movements as well, but sometimes they can backfire by increasing restlessness and involuntary contractions. Antidepressants are often prescribed for psychiatric symptoms.

·         A variety of therapies might be prescribed. These include talk therapy for psychiatric symptoms, speech therapy to improve swallowing and speaking abilities, and occupational therapy to help a person use assistive devices that preserve quality of life as the disease progresses. Physical therapy can help improve balance, strength, coordination, and posture. A discreet, affordable button alert with fall detection may bring peace of mind.

·         A nutrition plan can help maintain a good body weight, while assistive devices such as utensils designed for those with mobility issues can help ensure a person gets enough to eat and drink. A nutritionist can be a valuable part of the care team.

·         Management of behavioral and cognitive challenges should be tailored to the individual and might include a wide variety of options. Things such as using calendars and schedules, reminders to complete tasks, creating a calm environment, avoiding stressors that trigger depression, maintaining social interactions, and providing support from family, friends, and caregivers can help.

As you work through the various potential treatments with your medical team, it’s a good idea to stay as safe as possible. Some treatments might have side effects that can lead to falls. The use of a medical alert pendant can help ensure that if you do fall, you’ll have help right at your fingertips. Press the SOS button alarm to summon assistance within seconds.

The Danger of Falls for Those with Huntington’s

As Huntington’s disease progresses, those who have it will slowly lose their physical function. They will need greater and greater care over time, and those who are in the advanced stages will likely need round-the-clock or intensive care from professional caregivers.

Falls are a very serious concern for those with Huntington’s, as they are much more likely to suffer a fall than those in the general population.[6] The injuries related to a fall are one of the leading causes of death among those with Huntington’s disease.[7]

Though medical alert technology can’t prevent a fall, it certainly can help prevent the problems that can arise if you suffer a fall and there is no help nearby. Simply press the button to get help right away.

A medical alert system with fall detection from Alert1 is an even better way to ensure that you get the assistance you need. Tiny fall sensors in a fall detection device can alert a 24/7 monitoring center to a fall even before you have a chance to press the button. This can be especially helpful if for any reason you cannot press the SOS button yourself.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Huntington’s, it’s a good idea to consider an emergency response solution. There will be many concerns in the coming years; enhancing your peace of mind is essential. Alert1 Medical Alert Systems can help.