Studies of new treatments, one of them in Colombia, suggest an optimistic future for the disease.
In March 2020, Maricela detected slight movements in the legs of her 17-year-old daughter María. Although at first, she thought it was normal, days later, after seeing the same phenomenon constantly in her toes, she knew something was off.
During the pandemic, there were many medical exams, however, in August 2021 the diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson's Disease (PD) was confirmed. “A mother is never prepared to find out that her daughter has a disease like Parkinson's and for which, to date, there is no cure. You don't understand that at her young age, she has a neurodegenerative disease. You ask yourself: Why her? Why in the family has the disease? Isn't it a disease of the elderly? How am I going to help her? … So many questions with few answers”, Maricela said to the Parkinson Foundation.
This is one of the 8.5 million cases registered in the world, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2019. Quite a challenge for the global health system if we take into account that the projections speak of 12 million people with this diagnosis by 2030.
Although it is a less frequent disease in women, since it is estimated that 58 % of those who suffer from it are men, what sometimes happens is that the diagnosis takes time.
"A friend's mother, long before being diagnosed with PD, was treated for depression and anxiety, she had medication with antidepressants," said an attendee at a press conference on advances in the treatment of this condition in Colombia.
“The disease has a higher incidence in men than in women, it has been thought that due to hormonal protective factors. Progress has been made in understanding the way the disease is suffered. Women suffer more anxiety and depression, while they tend to have better motor status. It is a field highly studied, but the message is clear: it is not the same to treat men and women. Women are scientifically different in PD, which is reflected in a more moderate medication for them", explained Dr. Jaime Kulisevsky, director of the Parkinson's and Abnormal Movements Unit of the Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona.
Colombia is an example in Latin America regarding the treatment of the disease. For two years now, the country's health system has been participating in a treatment study with a new drug, Safinamide, which has been implemented for eight years in Europe and was incorporated into the obligatory health plan.
“It has some advantages because it helps control other complications such as dyskinesias, which are movements that appear with medication,” added Claudia Moreno, a neurologist specializing in movement disorders, Committee on Abnormal Movements of the Colombian Association of Neurology coordinator.
For the PD expert, the outlook is optimistic: “Probably in about 10 years, we will have more specific drugs. I believe that personalized medicine is going to become more relevant in the coming years, drugs that are directed at a specific alteration in the cell. We know that there is not just one Parkinson's, but that there are different forms of the disease,” she said.