Parkinson’s disease (PD)
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. Globally, it is estimated that over six million people are affected by the disease, but the number of patients is expected to have more than doubled by 2040.
Debilitating, progressive and costly
PD is both chronic and progressive, meaning that it is a lifelong disease that grows worse over time. The first symptoms normally manifest in a person’s late fifties or early sixties. The disorder affects both men and women, with a somewhat higher prevalence among men. Parkinson’s disease consists of both motor and non-motor symptoms such as those listed below.
- Tremors in hands, arms and legs
- Muscle rigidity
- Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
- Impaired balance (postural dysfunction)
With disease progression, other symptoms occur:
- Speech and swallowing difficulties
- Severe balance problems and falls
- Psychiatric symptoms, e.g. hallucinations
- Autonomous symptoms, e.g. fall in blood pressure and incontinence
- Cognitive difficulties – dementia
- Dyskinesia (after long-term use of levodopa)
High prevalence and unmet clinical needs
The number of PD patients is estimated to over six million people worldwide. By 2040, the PD population is expected to grow rapidly to an estimated patient population of nearly 13 million.
There is hence an increasing need for treatments that can improve PD patient’s quality of life by targeting the motor and non-motor symptoms. In addition, there is a need for neuroprotective or disease-modifying drugs that can slow down or halt the disease progression.
No cure and no certain reason to why it occurs
Parkinson’s disease entails slow degeneration of nerve cells that use the signal substance dopamine and decline of the dopamine level in the brain. Dopamine is an important signal substance in the brain. Parkinson’s disease is normally not discovered until nearly 80% of the nerve cells that signal using dopamine have been lost. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and the mechanism underlying the disease is largely unknown.
Current treatment methods are insufficient
Present treatments of PD are entirely focused on symptom relief. The standard treatment is with levodopa, a drug that the body converts into the signal substance dopamine. As the disease progresses, it becomes necessary to add several drugs to control symptoms (e.g. so called enzyme inhibitors). Research is being conducted in order to find a drug that slows the progression of the disease, but no clinical results have so far been obtained.