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Varenicline improves motor and cognitive symptoms in early Huntington’s disease

Authors McGregor A, Dysart J, Tingle M, Russell B, Kydd R, Finucane G

Received 21 April 2016

Accepted for publication 24 June 2016

Published 19 September 2016 Volume 2016:12 Pages 2381—2386


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Wai Kwong Tang

Ailsa L McGregor,1,2 Jo Dysart,3 Malcolm D Tingle,4 Bruce R Russell,1,2 Rob R Kydd,5 Gregory Finucane2

1New Zealand’s National School of Pharmacy, Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; 2Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland, 3Liaison Psychiatry, Auckland City Hospital, 4Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, 5Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Abstract: The aim of this study was to describe the effects of varenicline, a smoking cessation aid that acts as a nicotinic agonist, on cognitive function in patients with early clinical Huntington’s disease (HD) who were current smokers. Three gene-positive patients transitioning to symptomatic HD were evaluated using the Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale part I and III (motor and behavioral subscales) at baseline and after 4 weeks of treatment. Cognitive function was assessed using a touch screen computer-based neurocognitive test battery (IntegNeuro®). Varenicline (1 mg twice daily) significantly improved performance in executive function and emotional recognition tasks. Our case reports describe no clinically significant adverse effects and suggest that varenicline improves aspects of cognitive function in patients with early HD. A randomized controlled study is now underway.

Keywords: varenicline, Huntington’s disease, cognitive symptoms

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