More And Better
Portuguese drug improves symptoms of Parkinson's disease, under the coordination of Joaquim Ferreira.
A 100% Portuguese drug was created by Bial and is already on the market. The goal is to improve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Joaquim Ferreira, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Neurologist and Clinical Pharmacologist, played an important role in coordinating the clinical trials that led to the development of this drug.
Within the group of Movement disorders, Parkinson's disease is identified by the tremor (clinical sign that most often leads people to the doctor) and slowing movements as a result of a dysfunction of the central nervous system. In a more serious state, it can cause a significant limitation in the patient's mobility.
While knowing that there is a medication that can improve these symptoms is already excellent news, if this medicine has the intervention of a Faculty Professor, all the more proud this makes us.
We spoke to Professor Joaquim Ferreira to understand what it means to mitigate these effects of the disease.
"The problem with treating Parkinson's disease is that we do not have a drug that stops the progression of the disease, or that makes it disappear. What happens with this disease is that, after a while, patients alternate periods in which they are blocked, do not move and are sitting on a chair without standing up and are unable to walk. It turns out that after taking the drug - LEVODOPA - they are agile and almost normal. This behaviour is called motor fluctuations: either they are off (turned off, don't walk), or they're on (move and walk). At this time, we are still very limited in decreasing the period of time in which patients are off. What this drug does is prolong the duration of the on stage, that is, prolong the time that they are well during the day. Patients taking part in this trial had about 6 to 7 hours of off daily and with the drug the overall reduction was about two hours, from six to four or four to two. That's the gain; patients are more active."
The only Portuguese laboratory to develop new drugs, Bial has a drug development programme, collaborating with people from the Faculty of Medicine in scientific areas that enrich pharmaceutical knowledge and expertise. "This is the right collaboration model between the university and the pharmaceutical industry and it is the ideal model. It happens here in Portugal, Israel and a few other countries. It is rare for the pharmaceutical industry to be open to these collaborations with the Academy."
Bial also collaborates with the University of Porto's Pharmacology Laboratory, which means that there is a true partnership between industry and academic departments.
"Without Bial, we would not have had the opportunity to actively participate in the development of a new drug. On the other hand, we have opened the doors of researchers and leading clinical and research centres in the area of Parkinson's disease around the world for Bial"
How do you feel when you are part of a group that discovers and applies a drug that brings people more dignified conditions?
Joaquim Ferreira: It is really good.
I know notable researchers and clinicians who have spent a lifetime looking to contribute to a new treatment that makes a difference in patients' lives.
But that said. it is important to reinforce that the drug was not developed by me, but by the Bial team, which is made up of highly qualified researchers, coordinated by Prof. Patrício Soares da Silva, who did a remarkable job, not only with this medication, but also with others. Our role was simply to help design the trials that contributed to generating the data needed for the drug to have reached this stage. But my role was to collaborate with Bial in a disease and scientific community that I know well. All of this gives us great satisfaction."
nly now was the drug launched in Portugal, but it was approved two years ago, and is already sold in other countries. To finish up, and as Professor Joaquim Ferreira said, this drug and the bonds created between entities served "to break borders."
Perhaps one day, we will be able to attenuate the disease so drastically that it is cured the way an antibiotic treats an infection.
On 5th September the Rádio e Televisão de Portugal ran a story about this medication. You can review this report here (image credits RTP).