Parkinson Research Alliance of India Under Development By MCG Doctor

Armen Hareyan's picture

Parkinson's Disease Research in India

An alliance to bring more clinical trials for Parkinson's disease to India will expedite evaluations of innovative treatments in the United States and beyond, says its organizer.

"India is a prime place to do research and make a difference," says Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, director of the Medical College of Georgia Movement Disorders Program and project director of the Parkinson Research Alliance of India.

With the world's second largest population and a research infrastructure that must focus on communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, leprosy and cholera, Parkinson's disease has not gotten a lot of attention in Dr. Sethi's homeland.

This need fits well with treatments under design and studies that focus on slowing disease progression and require evaluation in newly diagnosed patients who haven't started another treatment, says Dr. Sethi.


He hopes India will become the site of some of the first trials of these disease-slowing strategies, including natural supplements such as coenzyme Q10 and creatine, which appear to enhance the body's energy production. Other drugs under study seek better ways to modulate dopamine, a neurotransmitter critical to movement that is depleted in Parkinson's patients, as well as other neurotransmitters now known to play a role in the disease.

An estimated 3 million to 5 million of India's one billion residents have Parkinson's disease, he says. With about 600 neurologists serving the country's population, most of these patients never see a neurologist, let alone one specializing in movement disorders, Dr. Sethi says. By comparison, the United States has about 17,000 neurologists serving 300 million people. He notes that while there are nearly 25 languages native to the densely populated country, the fact that English is common to nearly everyone should ease study initiatives.

Nov. 20, Dr. Sethi will chair an organizational meeting with 14 Indian movement disorders neurologists to discuss how the alliance will be organized. The Kinetics Foundation based in San Francisco, which supports Parkinson's disease research, will fund the initiative.

"We want to stretch our dollar, do studies quickly in a large number of patients that are untapped right now," Dr. Sethi says. "There are only so many new Parkinson's disease patients who come to a large center like ours, so we need to reach beyond our borders. Also, as we talk about the design of research trials and this group, it will bring attention to Parkinson's disease in India and hopefully improve access. I think it will help people everywhere in the world."

Dr. Sethi was born in Sultanpur, India, graduated from Christian Medical College in Ludhiana and completed much of his postgraduate training, including fellowship training in neurology, in his homeland. He was a research fellow at Charing Cross Group of Hospitals and Medical Schools in London and completed additional neurology training at Sub-Regional Unit of Neurology Welsh National School of Medicine in the United Kingdom before coming to MCG in 1983 to finish his neurology residency.

He directs the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at MCG Health System. Dr. Sethi is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Neurology, vice president and founding member of the Tremor Research Group and a member of the AAN Membership Committee. He serves on the boards of AAN Education and Research Foundation and the Movement Disorders Society.