One of the world’s leading researchers into the degenerative neurological condition Huntington’s disease (HD), was in Falkirk to update families living with the condition on progress towards effective treatments.
Dr Juha Savola, senior research and development director, Teva Pharmaceuticals based in Switzerland, was the guest speaker at the Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA) annual conference held at the Inchyra Grange Hotel.
Teva is one of the world’s top 10 largest drug companies with more than 250 million people using their products every day.
‘With an ageing population it likely that we will see cases of Huntington’s disease increase by approximately 30% in the next 20 years, it is inevitable,’ said Dr Savola.
‘We are currently working on several streams of research looking at ways of controlling the symptoms of HD which so blight the quality of life of people living with the condition, but there are also positive steps towards looking at gene therapy that could actually treat the root cause of the condition itself.’
HD is an incurable genetic brain disorder that usually starts between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It causes three main groups of symptoms: changes to thinking processes – a type of early onset dementia, loss of muscle control and involuntary movements which lead to loss of speech and swallow and mental illness. As it progress those affected will need 24 hour care. It is also hereditary with each child of those diagnosed at 50% risk developing the disease.
It is estimated there are around 1100 people living with HD in Scotland and about 5000 potentially at risk.
The SHA supports families living with HD through a team of specialist nurses, their world leading youth support service and a financial wellbeing service.
‘We were delighted to welcome Dr Savola to Scotland and hear about the progress that is being made towards effective treatments for HD. It is will be immensely encouraging for all the families listening that there may be light at the end of the tunnel towards controlling the symptoms caused by the condition and progress toward drugs that might alter the progress of the disease, although clearly there is still some way to go,’ said SHA chief executive, John Eden.
‘Encouraging as this progress is, it cannot detract from the fact that people living with HD in Scotland still rely on patchy quality of services and that is something we will continue to work towards improving for every family living with this condition.’
More information on the SHA and the work they do with HD families at www.hdscotland.org.
Picture shows: Dr Juha Savola (left) is welcomed to Falkirk by Scottish Huntington’s Association chief executive, John Eden.