Relief and even prevention for sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease

A/P Tan discussing treatment options with Mr Lam

A/P Tan discussing treatment options with Mr Lam

About three in every 1,000 adults above the age of 50 in Singapore are affected by Parkinson’s disease. Besides adversely affecting the quality of life of the sufferers and their caregivers, this chronic disorder imposes a heavy financial burden. It is estimated that for every year, medical costs can amount to almost $11,300 per patient. With a rapidly ageing population, this could impose a significant economic weight on the country’s healthcare system.

While current medication is able to suppress the symptoms caused by Parkinson’s, these drugs bring with them the possibility of various side effects: “The first drug I took gave me hallucinations,” says Mr. Lam, who has been living with Parkinson’s for 8 years, “I also didn’t realize that the medication was making me tired.” But research funded by the Singapore Millennium Foundation helps doctors at National Neuroscience Institute to better monitor and predict the disease progression and outcome for PD patients and achieve optimal results. Mr. Lam says that this has brought about a marked improvement in his daily life.

The research, which began in 2007, has isolated various gene variants which increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Some the genetic factors identified are unique to the Chinese. For this, a key researcher in the team, Associate Professor Tan Eng King, was awarded the National Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award 2011 by the Ministry of Health for his outstanding contribution in Parkinson’s research and for helping elevate the standard of patient care. The team has also developed fruit fly and animal models which aid scientists in the screening of new drugs that may be more effective against the condition.

Working in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, the team is looking into how the onset of the disease can be prevented with the development of new treatment options. It is hoped that through this research, individuals with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease can be identified early through genetic screening and can be started on medication which will halt the development of the disease.