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Parkinson’s disease

Laxatives may slow worsening rigidity in Parkinson's disease

Researchers found flexor muscle stiffness plateaued in Parkinson’s patients taking all types of laxatives.

Three members of the research team. From left to right: Ms Aisha Augustin BSc, Dr R John Dobbs DCH MD FRCP FBPhS and Dr Sylvia Dobbs MSc MD FRCP FBPhS

Courtesy of Sylvia Dobbs

Three members of the research team. From left to right: Aisha Augustin, John Dobbs and Sylvia Dobbs

Constipation is common among patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and often predates the diagnosis by decades. Previous work by researchers at King’s College in London led them to hypothesise that laxatives might ease muscle stiffness (rigidity) in PD. 

The team retrospectively studied 79 PD patients attending a gut-brain axis clinic over 374 person-years. Flexor rigidity increased by 5.5% each year but plateaued in patients who began taking laxatives, even if they weren’t receiving anti-PD medication. A similar pattern was seen with bulk, osmotic and enterokinetic laxative classes, pointing to a common mechanism. 

Reporting in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (online, 21 May 2016)[1], the researchers say the results support the idea that an imbalance in gut bacteria plays a role in the pathogenesis of PD and could point to a new approach to managing rigidity using existing medicines.


Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2016.20201206

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Supplementary images

  • Close up of an elderly person's hands
  • Three members of the research team. From left to right: Aisha Augustin, John Dobbs and Sylvia Dobbs

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