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Riluzole: a glimmer of hope in the treatment of motor neurone disease

Matthew C Kiernan
Med J Aust 2005; 182 (7): 319-320.
Published online: 4 April 2005

Early experience confirms that riluzole improves survival and is well tolerated

The recently established Australian Motor Neurone Disease Registry estimates that 1200 Australians are living with motor neurone disease (MND), and 370 new patients are diagnosed each year. Most patients die within 3 years of diagnosis. Aetiological mechanisms implicated in the development of MND have been linked to the glutamatergic neurotransmitter system, with excessive activation of glutamate receptors at the synaptic cleft now believed to trigger destruction of motor neurones.1 This “excitotoxicity” theory of MND gave rise to the development of new therapeutic approaches and, ultimately, clinical trials involving riluzole. This drug was initially thought to act solely as an inhibitor of glutamate release, although subsequent postulated effects include indirect antagonism of glutamate receptors and inactivation of neuronal voltage-gated sodium ion channels.

  • Matthew C Kiernan

  • Prince of Wales Clinical School and Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.

Correspondence: m.kiernan@unsw.edu.au

Acknowledgements: 

Research support from the Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia is gratefully acknowledged.

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