Parkinson’s UK has partnered with University College London (UCL) and will invest £1m in a phase II clinical trial to investigate if the drug ondansetron can alleviate hallucinations in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The trial will explore if ondansetron, a drug currently used to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients, is safe and effective against hallucinations in people with Parkinson’s.

Currently, there are 145,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK and 75% will experience visual hallucinations at some pint.

The funding for this project comes via the charity’s drug development arm – the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech. This programme, launched in 2017, is aiming to ‘plug’ the funding gap to fast-track projects with the greatest scientific potential to transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s.

The 12-week, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial will recruit 216 people over two years in 20-25 NHS clinics across the UK. Patients will be randomised to receive either ondansetron or placebo tablets to take at home for 12 weeks.

“Visual hallucinations pose a particular challenge in Parkinson’s as the very treatments for motor symptoms in Parkinson’s can also trigger and worsen this distressing symptom. Finding treatments for hallucinations that are both effective and safe is an area of great unmet need,” said Suzanne Reeves, lead researcher and professor of old age psychiatry and psychopharmacology at UCL

“Ondansetron influences visual processing in the brain and its potential for treating visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s was first identified in small studies in the early 1990s.

“This trial will enable us to find out if ondansetron is effective and safe as a treatment and if it is, we could see clinicians prescribing an inexpensive drug with fewer side effects to people with Parkinson’s throughout the UK,” she added.