call for better patient access to innovative technologies

Eucomed, the European Medical Technology Industry Association, has called on EU decision-makers to encourage and actively promote equitable and timely patient and clinician access to existing medical technologies for Parkinson's Disease, and more research into new therapies.

Parkinson's disease is the fourth most frequent disorder of the nervous system, after epilepsy, cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease. Because of the ageing populations (in Europe, by 2020, there will be 40 per cent more people aged 75 and above than in 1990) Parkinson's disease will undoubtedly become a major public health issue in the coming years.

Innovation in medical technology today can contribute to better, faster, higher quality and cost-effective treatment and enhanced quality of life for Parkinson's patients.

Maurice Wagner, Director General of Eucomed, commented: "The access to medical technology products should be enhanced in Europe, given the benefits they provide to patients and to the community. In the field of Parkinson's disease in particular, advanced medical technology can be complementary to classical pharmaceutical therapies, the efficacy of which has been shown to wane after a few years.“

Parkinson's disease is a complex, progressive and degenerative neurological disorder that causes loss of control over body movements. It is characterised by motor symptoms such as rigidity (stiffness or inflexibility of the limbs and joints), slowness of movement/absence of movement, involuntary, regular, rhythmic shaking of a limb, the head, the mouth, the tongue, or the entire body, postural instability and impaired balance andco-ordination.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that there are four million people with Parkinson's disease worldwide and that the overall prevalence in Europe is 1.6 per 100 in people over65 years. One in every 500 people will develop Parkinson's disease.

The cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, and there is no cure. Symptoms arise when a small region of the brain called the substantia nigra, or ablack substance', degenerates. Neurons (brain cells) in the substantia nigra die, depriving the brain of the chemical dopamine.

Some 80 per cent of patients with the disease in Europe are managed using pharmacological therapies.

The most effective surgical therapy available today is deep brain stimulation; an implantable medical device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, is used to deliver electrical stimulation to precisely targeted area deep in the brain to treat symptoms. Stimulation is adjustable, and its effects are reversible. About 20 per cent of Parkinson's disease patients may be suitable candidates for deep brain stimulation, but the percentage of patients who have access to this innovative therapy is actually much lower: whereas in Switzerland, this percentage is29.4 per cent, in France it is only 9.8, in the Netherlands, 9.3, in Spain, 8.4, in Germany, 5.2 and in the UK, 4.6 per cent.

Another surgical therapy used to treat Parkinson's disease is pallidotomy, which involves the surgical destruction of specific cells of the brain's globus pallidus. Scientists are also currently developing new medical technologies such as brain tissue and cell implants.

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