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Anti-anxiety drug becomes medical treatment for stuttering
8/14/2007 3

Pagoclone blocks a chemical that controls speech timing called dopamine in the brain.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, stuttering is a speech disorder in which the normal flow of speech is disrupted by frequent repetitions or prolongations of speech sounds, syllables or words. The speech disruptions may be accompanied by rapid eye blinks, tremors of the lips or jaw, or other movements of the face or upper body that a person who stutters may use in an attempt to speak. Situations like speaking before a group of people or talking on the telephone tend to make stuttering more severe, whereas situations like singing or speaking alone often improve fluency.

It is estimated that over 3 million Americans stutter. Stuttering affects individuals of all ages but occurs most frequently in young children between the ages of 2 and 6 who are developing language. Boys are three-times more likely to stutter than girls. Most children outgrow their stuttering, and it is estimated that less than 1 percent of adults stutter. Many experts believe some types of stuttering are genetically determined. The most common type of stuttering is developmentally linked and usually outgrown. Neurogenic stuttering is another common type, which is the result of a signaling problem between the brain and certain nerves and muscles. Stuttering also tends to run in families, and there is strong evidence that it may be a hereditary trait.

Pagoclone is becoming a more common treatment for stuttering. It was originally developed as an anti-anxiety drug. It blocks a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Research has suggested that people who stutter have an excess of dopamine in the area of the brain that controls speech timing. Since pagoclone was originally developed as a social anxiety medication, it also helps to relax people who stutter while they are speaking in front of people.

Many people who stutter have had promising results taking pagoclone. Pagoclone's effects are described as similar to alcohol but without the bad effects. It makes people feel relaxed and sociable, without feeling aggressive, nauseous, or uncoordinated. Pagoclone improved speech in 55 percent of the 130 patients who tested the drug with no major side effects.
If Food and Drug Administration approved, pagoclone would be the first medical treatment for stuttering. Phase III studies begin later this year.
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