The fierce urgency of now

Parkinson's does not stand still. Every single hour of every single day it is quietly gnawing away at our nerve cells. Like mice in the attic, scurrying around, nibbling at cables. Little by little this gradual erosion takes away our future and even our present.

But only if we let it. If Parkinson's does not stand still, nor should we. We don't have to accept this gradual slow decline. Four decades ago there was no treatment. Prospects were grim. Levodopa changed that. Levodopa gave people who had no future cause for rejoicing. And we were grateful. Really grateful.

But that was 40 years ago. It's hard to believe that in four decades of drug development, we have nothing to offer better than levodopa.

There are not many fields of medicine where the best drug available is 40 years old. What should have been the dawning of a new age of pharmacotherapy for Parkinson's has turned out to be its high water mark.

And the mood of patients has changed. We were grateful 40 years ago for levodopa. But that gratitude has been replaced by frustration and disappointment at the snail's pace of drug development that has followed. New, better treatments for Parkinson's are overdue. They were overdue 30 years ago if we are honest.

So next time you see a neurologist, ask him why the best drug he has to offer is 40 years old. Ask him when there will be something better. Will we be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of levodopa before anything better is available?

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's nearly 5 years ago, I was told glibly by my neurologist that a cure for Parkinson's was no more than 10 years away. Sat next to me in the waiting room was a man who had Parkinson's for more than two decades, diagnosed in 1988. "You know what" he snorted "he told me the same thing".

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