A medical approach to treating stuttering

For kids and teens who have only limited success with speech therapy, new clinical studies on a drug for stuttering may hold hope for the future.

Dr. Gerald Maguire, medical director of the Center for the Medical Treatment of Stuttering at the University of California-Irvine, has been working with Indevus Phamaceuticals to test the drug Pagoclone to treat stuttering.

“This is a completely different approach to treating stuttering. This is a disorder of the brain and we’re researching medical methods to treat stuttering,” Maguire says."That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to work with speech-language pathologists, but we’ll do research on doing medical interventions as well.”

Currently some doctors do prescribe medications for stuttering, but they are considered off-label since the drugs have been tested for the treatment of illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Pagoclone will be the first drug tested and marketed specifically for the treatment of stuttering.

Maguire says the first clinical study on the drug showed a significant success rate in reducing stuttering with minimal side effects. Upcoming drug trials will include trials for children over age 8 and adolescents.

“It’s one thing to say to parents to wait, but by the age of 12 or 13, the chance of outgrowing it is very, very small and I think it’s OK to try medication,” Maguire says."We always want to try speech therapy for kids first, but we can try medications for children over the age of 8 and especially if there’s a family history of stuttering we’re more apt to try medication.”

For Maguire, who is also a stutterer, the new clinic, which opened in October 2007, and new medication mean stutterers who have failed speech therapy may still have options."There’s hope out there and my goal is that there’ll be many of these centers sprouting up as we get the word out about the different medical treatments,” Maguire says."There’s no medication that cures, but there’s no therapy or device that cures either. Probably the most effective is to have therapy and medication combined. This always works better than just one or the other.”

Pagaclone is currently available only through the clinical studies. More information on how to participate in the upcoming study can be found at www.indevus.com. For information on treatment at the Center for the Medical Treatment of Stuttering, e-mail Gerald.maguire@uci.edu or visit the center’s Web site at www.ucihealth.com/stutteringcenter. The center sees patients from around the country and after the initial visit, treatment can be coordinated via e-mail and telephone, Maguire says. Because it is a medical clinic, treatment is generally covered by most insurance companies.

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