The Parkinson’s Disease Medication Pipeline
The pipeline for Parkinson’s disease (PD) medications is extremely crowded these days, with multiple medications at various stages of research development. This is very exciting news for the PD community and is a perfect example of the “hope in progress” part of our organization’s motto. It is thrilling to see the research that is underway, especially the potential treatments that have already made it to the clinical trial phase of development. However, this progress brings with it the welcome challenge of keeping track of all the potential compounds that are in research development! Recently, a review was published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease which cataloged the 145 compounds that are currently being studied in humans via clinical trials for PD. This is a staggering number and is even more exceptional when you consider the many more compounds that are not quite yet ready for human trials, but are currently being studied in the laboratory in test tubes, cell culture or animal models of PD. The number also does not account for compounds that have been studied in small clinical trials, garnered promising data, and will be studied in larger clinical trials in the near future – but are not being tested in clinical trials right now.
145 is a pretty long list, so we’re not going to cover all of them here. Instead we will examine the science behind some of categories of the disease modifying therapies (more on this below) that are currently being investigated as PD therapeutics in clinical trials, and I will aim to present highlights, not be comprehensive. In future blogs, we will examine other categories.
Some background on the review
Of note, the review was authored by Kevin McFarthing, Susan Buff and Gary Rafaloff, (along with scientists at The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, a non-profit PD organization based in London, UK). McFarthing, Buff and Rafaloff are three people with PD who have each developed an exceptional knowledge of the current state of PD research and have been heavily involved in explaining that research to the PD community.
Types of medications to treat Parkinson’s disease
Medications in the research pipeline can be divided into two main categories: those that treat the symptoms of PD and those that are disease modifying (which means that they aim to slow down or halt disease progression). Of note, all medications currently available for PD are symptomatic treatments. There is no medication at this time that can affect the progression of the disease. Of course, the PD research community is extremely eager to find a medication that is disease modifying or neuroprotective (meaning it protects the nerve cells from damage or degeneration). There have been many attempts over the past number of years to demonstrate through clinical trials that particular compounds have neuroprotective effects but, to date, these attempts have not been successful.
If you are interested in getting involved in a clinical trial, Clinicaltrials.gov is a database of all clinical trials for all diseases worldwide. When a clinical trial is registered with