OCEAN PARK - Neal Mathews, a local pharmacist, will be speaking at the Parkinson's Support Group in Ocean Park on new medications prescribed for the disease. The meeting will be Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Ocean Park Lutheran Church at 240th & U St. from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Come and bring a friend. The meeting will be very informative and you will learn about drugs never before available to treat this disease. Currently, there are over 1.5 million Americans that have Parkinson's Disease (PD) more than MS, MD or Lou Gehrig's combined. No known cause has been established, and there is no cure at this time. The key signs are tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity, difficulty with balance, small cramped handwriting, stiff facial expression, shuffling walk, muffled speech and depression. Most of these symptoms are caused by a lack of Dopamine, a chemical in the brain used by nerve cells to allow movement of body muscles. The only method of diagnosis is by the symptoms.

Medicines most commonly used attempt to replace or mimic Dopamine which improves the tremor, rigidity and slowness. Several new medicines are being studied that may slow the progression of the disease.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved Apokyn, an injectable drug, for episodes when the body becomes totally immobile and unable to perform daily activity. For more information you can contact Gloria Obuchowski at (800) 426-6806.

An estimated 25,000 people in Oregon and southern Washington have PD. Sixteen new cases are diagnosed each week. One-third of the victims have symptoms before age 50.

The annual cost of medication to treat PD can exceed $6,000. Assistance may be available through a Pharmaceutical Assist Program offered by your local Senior Information and Assistance office in Long Beach. Call them to make an appointment at 642-3634. They can do the paperwork for you to see if you qualify. They also provide assistance with most other medications and help to explain the $600-a-year Medicare Program.

Parkinson's Resources of Oregon, the sponsor of the local support group, is governed by a board of 13 volunteer directors, five of whom have PD. About 100 other volunteers are active in the area with support groups, program planning, committee work and office support.

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