Upcoming Study Seeks New Drug for Stuttering

A small FDA-approved clinical trial is expected to start next month to test the efficacy of a drug for patients who stutter.

A new study scheduled to begin next month will determine how effective an orally-administered medication in treating stuttering, in an attempt to find new treatment.

Stuttering is a genetically-influenced condition, and at this time there are no FDA approved drugs available.

Ecopipam is a first-in-class drug that selectively blocks the actions of dopamine at its receptor. Based on their structures, dopamine can be classified into 2 families: D1 receptors and D2 receptors. Since ecopipam only blocks dopamine at D1 receptors, behaving in a different manner than all other available medications, it is being tested as a potential treatment for stuttering.

In total, 10 volunteers will be selected for the trial which is currently seeking participants.

“The study is exploratory,” said researcher Gerald Maguire, MD, who will be leading the study. “We are the only site in the world conducting this trial; ecopipam has never been tested for stuttering. It has been tested for treatment of tics in Tourette syndrome, a neurological disease, with some encouraging results. Stuttering shares some similarities to the vocal changes seen in subjects with Tourette syndrome. We are hopeful ecopipam will yield beneficial effects in stuttering.”

Each of the 10 individuals who are selected for the trial next month will be required to undergo a physical examination, and their medical history will be recorded. The study’s co-investigator and speech pathologist, Lisa LaSalle, will analyze participant speech patterns to ensure their stuttering symptoms are sufficiently severe.

All patients in the clinical study will receive ecopipam for a limited time.

“We believe we could have results from our analysis in as soon as 9 months,” Maguire said. “A placebo-controlled clinical trial may then follow, pending approval. If ecopipam is found to be effective in controlling stuttering, we may have a viable solution for a disorder that can be traced back centuries.”

The study is being funded through philanthropic donations given to the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, specifically to study stuttering, while the pharmaceutical company, Psyadon, will donate ecopipam.