US biopharmaceutical companies now have 37 new medicines in development for Parkinson’s disease – 23 to treat the disease, 11 for related conditions and three diagnostics, according to new industry data.

All 23 new products are now either in clinical trials or under by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says the report, from research-based industry group the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Around 10 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with this chronic and progressive neurological condition, including up to 1.5 million in the US. Each year, approximately 600,000 additional patients are newly diagnosed, which does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected, and it is forecast that, without any change, the prevalence of Parkinson’s will more than double by 2040, says PhRMA.

The new report looks at the range of approaches being pursued to tackle the disease. Examples include: 

- a gene therapy comprising an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector that delivers the gene for aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) to cells in a part of the brain that controls movement; 

- a potential first-in-class medicine that targets a receptor found in the brain where degeneration and abnormality are often seen in Parkinson’s disease; 

- a molecular imaging agent that uses single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to aid in diagnosis of Parkinson’s:

- a potential first-in-class treatment for Parkinson’s disease psychosis (PDP); and

- new delivery mechanisms of currently-approved treatments, including an intranasal formulation and an intestinal gel.

PhRMA's report also examines the economic consequences of Parkinson’s. These are estimated, in the US alone, to be at least $14.4 billion a year, with $8.1 billion in medical expenses and $6.3 billion in indirect costs attributed to the disease.

Also, US patients with Parkinson’s incur annual disease-related expenses averaging $22,800 per capita, which is $12,800 higher than someone who does not have the disease, and estimates suggest that if the condition’s progression could be slowed by 50%, this would lead to 35% reduction in excess costs, it says.

“The economic burden of Parkinson’s disease and the need for services and support are increasing exponentially due to the world’s aging population. More collaboration throughout the biomedical ecosystem will help better meet the needs of people living with Parkinson’s, and allow us to continue to make strides against this global public health challenge,” said PhRMA CEO John J Castellani.