Advisors to the US Food and Drug Administration have voted unanimously to recommend the approval of privately-owned Prestwick Pharmaceuticals' tetrabenazine, which would be the first drug approved in the country to treat chorea associated with Huntington disease.

Huntington's is a neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive movement disorders, cognitive dysfunction and behavioural changes that are ultimately fatal. Chorea is characterised by excessive, involuntary and repetitive movements, which are "the most visible and dangerous manifestations" of Huntington's, said Prestwick. Frederick Marshall, chief of the geriatric neurology unit at the University of Rochester, who presented data on behalf of Prestwick, said that there are no approved treatments to alleviate this disorder or any aspect of Huntington disease and chorea which affects over 30,000 Americans, "interfering with their ability to perform activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing and caring for themselves".

Prestwick hopes for full approval of the drug despite the problems that tetrabenazine has had before with the FDA, which has been concerned about potential side effects. In clinical studies of the drug, researchers had found that some patients suffered from depression and sedation, among other effects, but they were alleviated after physicians lowered tetrabenazine's dosage.