New evidence on revolutionary brain pacemaker for Parkinson's Disease patients

March 25, 2002

Less than 7% of all Parkinson Disease (PD) patients across Europe that could benefit from deep brain stimulation have benefited from the Activa® Parkinson's Control Therapy, despite it being the most significant advance in the treatment of Parkinson's in more than 30 years.

The European Parkinson's Disease Association (EPDA) announced today new evidence on the current uptake of deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease patients and despite its success there are still large numbers of patients waiting or denied access to the therapy.

Deep brain stimulation uses Medtronic's Activa® Parkinson's Control Therapy which is a pioneering treatment for patients with Parkinson's disease. It was launched by Medtronic with the support of the EPDA to great acclaim in Europe four years ago in 1998, however considerably low numbers of patients with Parkinson's disease have received the treatment since that period.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that there are four million people with Parkinson's disease worldwide1. Currently Parkinson's disease is ranked as the fourth most frequent disorder of the nervous system, after epilepsy, cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer's2. It has been estimated that across Europe, approximately 20% of all PD patients could benefit from deep brain stimulation3.

However, it was revealed today that approximately 7%* of patients suitable for surgical treatment across Europe have received deep brain stimulation in the key G5 European countries (France, Italy, Germany, Spain and UK) since it was launched four years ago. Switzerland is leading the way with the UK bottom of the G5 countries in terms of accessibility to deep brain stimulation for appropriate patients. The estimated percentage of new suitable PD patients per year receiving deep brain stimulation therapy in Europe is as follows: 29.4% of patients in Switzerland, 9.8% in France, 9.3% in the Netherlands, 8.4% in Spain, 5.3% in Italy, 5.2% in Germany with only 4.6% of patients in the UK. This equates to approximately 7% uptake in patients suitable for surgical treatment within the G5 countries3.

"Deep brain stimulation using Medtronic's Activa® Parkinson's Control Therapy is a major advancement in the treatment of Parkinson's disease as it is an effective approach to treating the disabling symptoms of the disease," said Professor Alim Benabid, the pioneer of this revolutionary treatment and Chairman of Neurosurgery at the University Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France.

"Increasing numbers of patients are receiving this therapy in Europe but in some countries the rate of uptake is not what one might expect. Clinicians in Europe have over 15 years of experience with deep brain stimulation and the therapy can no longer be considered experimental in any way as it has a proven safety and efficacy profile over this period. EU approval in 1998 and FDA approval in the USA in January 2002 were milestones in the development of this therapy that can transform patients' lives for the better."

This evidence has also helped to identify a number of barriers that exist for medical professionals with respect to deep brain stimulation treatment. The main ones being inconsistent funding support within and between each country, lack of interaction between all specialists involved in the procedure and low awareness of the treatment among general practitioners (GP)/referring physicians.

Mary Baker, President of the EPDA, commented, "The EPDA strongly believes that it is essential that patients with Parkinson's disease receive the best treatment appropriate for their needs. The most important concern for patients with Parkinson's disease is improving their quality of life. More attention needs to be given to treatments that help to advance this, such as deep brain stimulation using the Activa® Parkinson's Control Therapy. The EPDA would like to see access to therapies such as deep brain stimulation improve for appropriate patients across Europe."

Professor of Neurosurgery at Imperial College London, Tipu Aziz, stressed how important dialogue between consultant and patient is, "Doctors need to discuss with their patients all appropriate treatment options for Parkinson's disease. In addition patients need to initiate conversation on therapy with their general practitioner/family physician. Referrals should then be made to a specialist neurologist or neurosurgeon where appropriate for deep brain stimulation."

The cause of Parkinson's is unknown, but the symptoms stem from the degeneration of neurons (brain cells) that produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that enables communication among the brain cells involved in motor control. Activa® Therapy's electrical stimulation acts on these malfunctioning circuits in the brain using an implanted medical device akin to a cardiac pacemaker.

"Before the onset of Parkinson's I had it all; a good quality of life, an interesting and responsible job and, most importantly, my health," Mike Robins commented, a patient who has had Parkinson's disease for 6 years and was treated with the Activa® Therapy in 1999. "As a result of deep brain stimulation my life, once again, changed immeasurably. I no longer have this debilitating tremor that made me an object of sympathy for some, and horror for others. I am once again the confident person I was before Parkinson's started. I've been given back my life."
1 WHO Parkinson's disease fact sheet. April 1997.
2 Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry publication, Target Parkinson's, April 1998.
3 Data on file. Medtronic Europe (* Calculated for annual incidence figures per country).

Notes for Editors

In some countries across Europe, deep brain stimulation is being offered to patients with movement disorders other than Parkinson's disease, such as essential tremor and dystonia.

If you have any questions and/or would like to speak to Mary Baker, President of the EPDA, an expert in this area, a patient affected by this disease, or would like b-roll footage/photography, please contact:

Amanda Boswell or Roseann Ward
Ketchum, London
Tel: +44 (0) 207 611 3500

Lizzie Graham
EPDA Liaison/Project Manager
4 Golding Road
Kent TN13 3NJ, United Kingdom
Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1732 457 683

Registered Office:
Rue Montoyer 47, B-1000
Bruxelles, Belgium

Ketchum UK

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