Parkinson's charity warns more money needed urgently as research drops behind

Concerns have been raised by Parkinson's UK
Concerns have been raised by Parkinson's UK

Research into new treatments for Parkinson's disease is falling behind and in urgent need of extra funding, a charity has warned.

Without greater progress, patients with the progressive shaking disease face a bleak future, according to Parkinson's UK.

The charity has launched its first public fundraising campaign as it marks 200 years since the disease was first identified by London-based physician James Parkinson.

Although some of the symptoms of Parkinson's are treatable, currently there is nothing available that can halt or reverse the condition.

The disease, suffered by around 127,000 people in the UK, has a range of physical effects including tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity, that can impact on almost every area of a person's life.

It is also associated with "hidden" symptoms such as poor sleep, depression and dementia.

Speaking at the start of the "We Won't Wait" campaign, Parkinson's UK chief executive Steve Ford said: "In the past 200 years we have made many strides forward, but people with Parkinson's are still waiting for a treatment that can tackle the condition head on.

"Parkinson's can leave people struggling to walk, talk and sleep. Today, we say we won't wait any longer.

"That's why Parkinson's UK is spearheading, with the expertise of the research community and the support of those living with Parkinson's, the step change needed to deliver better treatments and a cure faster.

"But we can't do this alone. That's why we're urgently asking people to donate, in our first ever public fundraising campaign, whatever they can to support our vital work.

"We won't tolerate Parkinson's treatments falling behind."

The main drug prescribed to people with Parkinson's, levodopa, has not changed in more than 50 years.

A survey of 4,149 British adults commissioned by Parkinson's UK revealed a "shocking" lack of awareness about the disease, said the charity.

Almost half of those questioned were unsure whether the disease could be prevented, or thought this was possible.

Four in five (83 per cent) incorrectly thought there was no limit to the amount of time Parkinson's drugs remained effective, or were unsure.

Three in five (62 per cent) wrongly believed that Parkinson's medication does more than mask or ease symptoms.

The average age at which people are diagnosed with the disease is 62, but it can strike earlier.

Mother-of-one Alison Ottaway, 50, from Guildford, Surrey, was diagnosed in 2006 the day before her 40th birthday.

She said: "I take 15 tablets a day. Sometimes they work like clockwork, but I have had times when the medication stops working halfway between doses.

"That's the thing with Parkinson's, it varies day to day and people don't understand that.

"I experience stiffness, sometimes I can walk fine but other times I'll be crawling along the floor.

"Even simple things like holding a shopping bag can be impossible when the tablets are not working as effectively.

"When I'm having a good day people don't realise that the medication is masking a terrible condition and unfortunately, it can come for anyone.

"If there was the chance to reverse the progression of Parkinson's it would give me a second chance to live my life how I wanted to."