Parkinson Canada reaches out to pharmacists to enhance their ability to advise people living with the disease

Pharmacy Module
Online learning module for pharmacists

It’s no surprise that pharmacists are an important member of the health care team for a person with Parkinson’s. Pharmacists advise them about their medications, potential side effects and possible adverse interactions with other medications. Taking medication as prescribed and on time is an important factor in living well with this degenerative brain disease.

With this in mind, Parkinson Canada is launching an online learning module, especially designed to help pharmacists understand Parkinson’s medications and advise their patients living with the disease. We encourage people living with Parkinson’s and their care partners to share this news with their own pharmacist and other members of their health care team.

“Parkinson’s disease is a complex neurological disease and is best treated by a team of health care professionals,” says Grace Ferrari, Senior Manager, Education & Support, for Parkinson Canada.  “Pharmacists are a primary source of information for patients about medications, not only their prescription drugs to treat Parkinson’s, but also over-the-counter medications, and interactions between food and drugs. We know that the practice of pharmacy is evolving from one of dispensing medication to one of patient-centredness, so it is important that we provide this online learning module to help pharmacists quickly identify their patients’ needs and provide the most relevant help.”

The module Parkinson’s Disease Management was developed by Dr. Greta Mah, the clinical pharmacist for the Parkinson’s Management Program and the Geriatric Day Hospital at North York General Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

The learning module uses case scenarios to provide learners with a better understanding of drug treatment options at the different stages of Parkinson’s disease. After completing the module, pharmacists will be able to:

  • Recommend adjustments to medications based on the individual’s motor complications and different stages of the disease;
  • Recognize and manage various non-motor symptoms commonly experienced by patients with Parkinson’s; and
  • Describe the role of the pharmacist in providing care to patients at different stages of the disease.

In addition to the learning module, Parkinson Canada will test a pilot application (app) accessible by mobile phone or tablet this week during the World Parkinson Congress 2016 in Portland, Oregon. A potential resource for both health care practitioners and people with Parkinson’s, the medication app will provide the health care provider with the most relevant treatment options and aims to develop patients’ self-management skills.

“We are very excited to share this application at the World Parkinson Congress,” says Grace Ferrari. “With more than 4,000 people onsite, it’s the perfect opportunity to gather expert feedback on the tool from all the key potential user groups including patients, care partners and a variety of health care professionals and researchers.”

Tejal Patel, BScPharm, PharmD, and Feng Chang, BScPharm, PharmD, are the experts behind the app. They also wrote the 2015 article “Practice recommendations for Parkinson’s disease:  Assessment and management by community pharmacists” for the Canadian Pharmacists Journal.  Patel and Chang are also the authors of a Parkinson Canada medication booklet, currently in production. It will be a comprehensive resource for people living with Parkinson’s, their caregivers and medical professionals. We’ll keep you informed on when these resources become available. Visit our websites at: and for updates on these and other educational resources.

Pharmacists, or other health care professionals, can register for the Parkinson’s Disease Management online learning module by completing the online registration form. A fee of $30 applies.

Screening for chemicals that could keep brain cells healthy

Professor Siegfried Hekimi
Professor Siegfried Hekimi

Mitochondria, the energy-producing building blocks in cells, are essential to keeping those cells healthy and functioning. Researchers know that having defective mitochondria is a trait that several neurodegenerative diseases share, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

At McGill University, Professor Siegfried Hekimi is honing in on a molecule called ubiquinone, also known as Co-enzyme Q (CoQ).  Hekimi, a geneticist, knows that mitochondria need ubiquinone to produce energy and to keep cells healthy. He also knows that pathologists have found low levels of ubiquinone in the brains of some people with Parkinson’s disease after they have died.

Hekimi theorizes that if researchers find a way to boost the amount of ubiquinone in cells, or to make whatever ubiquinone remains in damaged cells work more efficiently, that would help mitochondria to function better.  More ubiquinone might even repair damaged cells.

“Mitochondria are the weak point for aging brain cells,” Hekimi says. “We don’t know at this stage that boosting mitochondrial function will cure the disease, but … it should certainly help alleviate symptoms.”

Hekimi and his team have developed a tool to screen chemical compounds to observe their effect on ubiquinone.  Once they administer compounds to cells that are cultured in a dish, the cells turn different colours depending upon whether the chemicals boost ubiquinone and keep the cells alive, or whether they die.

The more positive results Hekimi and his students get from the compounds they try, the more avenues for drug discovery they have opened.

For Hekimi, whose former PhD supervisor in England has Parkinson’s disease, the research is now even more personal.

“I cannot give a prediction of how long it will take, but I’m sure we will find something,” he says with confidence.

Professor  Hekimi’s research is being funded by a one-year, pilot project grant of $45,000 from the Parkinson Canada Research Program.  To read about other research projects being funded by the Program, visit

Parkinson SuperWalk brings hope to thousands

Blake Bell

In pouring rain or brilliant sunshine; on a lakeside trail or inside a hockey arena; no matter the weather or location, once again Parkinson SuperWalk inspired thousands of everyday heroes and offered hope to every Canadian living with Parkinson’s disease. Each day, more than 25 people will learn they have Parkinson’s, and the Parkinson SuperWalk community inspires hope.

More than 10,000 participants laced up their runners or volunteered at 91 Parkinson SuperWalk events across the country, most of them held on September 10 and 11. Early estimates indicate that more than $2 million has been raised to date. And anyone can continue to support SuperWalk participants by making a donation online until October 30.

For the first time, this year’s Parkinson SuperWalk declared a National Hero, Blake Bell of Toronto, who won the title after receiving five nominations in a nationwide contest. In their nominations, Bell’s colleagues, friends and family called him an “inspiration,” and praised his warm and positive attitude.

“I admit I cried after reading the nominations I received and learning that I was named the National Hero. That’s not how I think of myself, I simply want to treat people well, and trust that they’ll do the same for me,” he says.
As the National Hero, Bell opened the Parkinson SuperWalk at Ashbridges Bay Park in Toronto on a hot and steamy Saturday, at the lakeshore location. He cut the starting ribbon to great fanfare, and then the skies burst open to give everyone a late-morning shower.

The downpour didn’t dampen Bell’s reaction to being the event’s first National Hero. “I was amazed at how many people came up to me and congratulated me on being the National Hero. It was very humbling,” he says.

Bell first took part in Parkinson SuperWalk last year because he wanted to support Parkinson’s research. He also wanted to tell people about the disease, and ask them to help fund the search for a cure. “It was a time in my life that I wanted to share my Parkinson’s with people that did not know about my condition,” says Bell. “I got overwhelming support from friends and family. In many ways, participating in Parkinson SuperWalk has been a part of my healing process.”

Other nominated provincial heroes also led a Parkinson SuperWalk, including: Natasha McCarthy in Charlottetown; Joan Gilroy in Halifax; Jim Pattman in Saint John; Deena Helm in Edmonton; June Benaschak in Saskatoon; Diana Rachlis in Ottawa and Bridget Thompson in Winnipeg. Congratulations to them all.

Parkinson Canada salutes all of the everyday heroes – walkers, volunteers, donors and sponsors and everyone who helped make Parkinson SuperWalk a success once again. If you missed out for some reason, you can still be a hero and make a SuperWalk donation online until October 30.