Germany’s Merck KGaA's and Italy’s Newron Pharmaceuticals have been boosted by promising data from a late-stage trial of their experimental Parkinson's treatment safinamide.

The firms presented six-month data from a 669-patient Phase III study which revealed that people with mid- to late-stage Parkinson's disease receiving either safinamide 50 mg or 100 mg orally once-daily as adjunctive therapy to levodopa demonstrated a statistically significant increase of daily total ‘on’ time of motor functioning, compared to placebo.

Patients on levodopa with safinamide saw an improvement of 1.3 hours per day from before the start of the study, compared to 0.7 hours for those receiving placebo in addition to levodopa and other anti-Parkinson therapies. Full study results will be submitted for presentation at upcoming scientific meetings.

The news was greeted positively by analysts at WestLB who issued a note saying that "efficacy-wise this is at best comparable to currently available drugs". However they also advised caution until further results are published from other Phase III trials of safinamide.

The Darmstadt-based group’s Merck Serono unit obtained exclusive worldwide rights from Newron to develop, manufacture and commercialise safinamide in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other therapeutic applications in October 2006.