Parkinson's expert calls for COVID-style response to the world's fastest growing disease

12 Jan 2021

Parkinson's is the world’s fastest growing neurological disorder. Between 1990 and 2015 the number of individuals diagnosed with the condition doubled from 2.6 million to a staggering 6.3 million worldwide ('Ending Parkinson's Disease').

Here in the UK, national charity Parkinson's UK estimates that there are 145,000 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, or a staggering 50 people diagnosed with the condition every day.

In the past decade, the number of Americans with Parkinson’s increased by 35 percent, 20 percent faster than the growth observed in Alzheimer’s disease, says Michael Okun, Parkinson's expert and co-author of the book 'Ending Parkinson’s Disease'.

He began this year by highlighting the speed of response to the coronavirus and calling for the same energy and dedicated response to ending Parkinson's.

In his article, he observes that 'Polio, HIV, and COVID-19 moved at warp speed. Parkinson’s disease in contrast is still moving glacially.' The extent of the impact of Parkinson's on individuals, their families and the health and social care establishment around the globe is undeniable. So why, he questions, when we know this, are we shuffling forward rather than sprinting?

After expanding on the medical and research response in history to both polio and HIV, he states:

'As with COVID, there are also monoclonal antibodies for Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s research can and will learn from COVID. Many international scientists are engaged in the development of new drug targets, novel neuromodulatory devices, gene therapies, optogenetics, and other “out of the box” approaches to end Parkinson’s disease. To move the needle, we will need to immediately shift from a shuffle to warp speed.'

Micheal Okun is Professor and Executive Director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at University of Florida Health, and the Medical Director of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

You can find his article here and information about the book here.

'The things you can't get from the books'

Parkinson's Academy, our original and longest running Academy, houses 20 years of inspirational projects, resources, and evidence for improving outcomes for people with Parkinson's. Led by co-founder and educational director Dr Peter Fletcher, the Academy has a truly collegiate feel and prides itself on delivering 'the things you can't get from books' - a practical learning model which inspires all Neurology Academy courses.