Currently, Indian patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease struggle to access some of the more modern methods of treating the condition. This may soon change following the introduction of the drug Apomorphine, a treatment used commonly in Western nations.
Current treatments in India include the use of oral treatments, which come with the disadvantage of having diminishing returns once the disease begins to progress. Once Oral treatments are no longer effective, a process called deep brain stimulation (DBS) becomes necessary to alleviate the symptoms.
Compared to the administration of oral medication, DBS is far more intrusive. The process involves the placement of electrodes through two small holes in the skull. Electrical stimulation is applied which alters the electrical signals between neurons of the area of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease, alleviating some of the symptoms, albeit temporarily.
One of the issues with this kind of therapy is the necessity to go to the hospital for the technique to be applied. For many Indians suffering from Parkinson’s disease this may be impossible. DBS may not be available in the area, this problem will be faced by those in rural areas where healthcare infrastructure is lacking. For others, affordability may become an issue, particularly where the procedure is only available in — the often more expensive — private hospitals.
Apomorphine comes in the form of injections, making it a far more convenient option for treating the condition than the intrusive methods of DBS.
The drug will be distributed across India by Vikram Hospitals and then made available in selected centres across the country after the approval of the Drug Controller General of India.
Despite the drug not yet being available, many Indian neurologists are already hopeful. “Just one small dose of Apomorphine can bring substantial relief to the patients, and in India especially this drug will work wonders because not many can opt for the DBS procedure which is very expensive and in many cases, the other oral medications prove futile” says Dr. Girish Soni, professor of neurology at Sir JJ hospital.
At just Rs 1500-2000 per dose, the injections are far cheaper than the more expensive process of DBS. Dr Soni comments that as the injections are imported by more and more Indian companies, the price will naturally be driven down through competition.
It is important to distinguish that the new medication is not a cure, and, like the other treatments only provides short term relief from the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It does, however, represent a far more reliable and convenient means of treatment that could give back some measure of control and freedom to those in India who suffer from the disease.