Amantadine is an antiviral drug that was first used to treat Asian flu in 1966. Subsequently the FDA approved it to also treat Parkinson’s disease and uncontrollable muscular contractions triggered by antipsychotic medications. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine has demonstrated conclusively that amantadine may also help recovery from traumatic brain injury. Patients who were minimally conscious or in a vegetative state showed faster improvement when given amantadine compared to those getting placebo. The investigators caution that the study does not show whether amantadine improves long-term outcomes or simply accelerates short term recovery. The drug has not yet been approved by the FDA for traumatic brain injury, but this research should give physicians another tool to help in treating these hard-to-treat patients.
[New England Journal of Medicine, March 1, 2012]