Treatment of Huntington's disease

Neurotherapeutics. 2014 Jan;11(1):153-60. doi: 10.1007/s13311-013-0244-z.


Huntington's disease (HD) is a dominantly inherited progressive neurological disease characterized by chorea, an involuntary brief movement that tends to flow between body regions. HD is typically diagnosed based on clinical findings in the setting of a family history and may be confirmed with genetic testing. Predictive testing is available to family members at risk, but only experienced clinicians should perform the counseling and testing. Multiple areas of the brain degenerate, mainly involving the neurotransmitters dopamine, glutamate, and γ-aminobutyric acid. Although pharmacotherapies theoretically target these neurotransmitters, few well-conducted trials for symptomatic interventions have yielded positive results and current treatments have focused on the motor aspects of HD. Tetrabenazine is a dopamine-depleting agent that may be one of the more effective agents for reducing chorea, although it has a risk of potentially serious adverse effects. Some newer neuroleptic agents, such as olanzapine and aripiprazole, may have adequate efficacy with a more favorable adverse effect profile than older neuroleptic agents for treating chorea and psychosis. There are no current treatments to change the course of HD, but education and symptomatic therapies can be effective tools for clinicians to use with patients and families affected by HD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / drug therapy*
  • Tetrabenazine / therapeutic use*


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Tetrabenazine