Drug treatment of Parkinson's disease

Amos D. Korczyn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disease. While its cause remains elusive, much progress has been made regarding its treatment. Available drugs have a good symptomatic effect, but none has yet been shown to slow the progression of the disease in humans. The most efficacious drug is levodopa, but it remains unclear whether the symptomatic benefit is associated with neurotoxic effects and long-term deterioration. The long-term problem associated with levodopa is the appearance of dyskinesias, which is significantly delayed among patients treated with dopamine agonists as initial therapy. Less clear is the role of other drugs in PD, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), including selegiline and rasagiline, the putative N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists amantadine and memantine, and the muscarinic receptor blockers. All these may be used as initial therapy and delay the use of dopaminergic drugs, or can be added later to reduce specific symptoms (tremor or dyskinesias). Advanced PD is frequently associated with cognitive decline. To some extent, this can be helped by treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors such as rivastigmine. Similarly, hallucinations and delusions affect PD patients in the advanced stages of their disease. The use of classical neuroleptic drugs in these patients is contraindicated because of their extrapyramidal effects, but atypical drugs, and particularly clozapine, are very helpful. The big void in the therapy of PD lies in the more advanced stages. Several motor symptoms, like postural instability, dysphagia, and dysphonia, as well as dyskinesias, are poorly controlled by existing drugs. New therapies should also be developed against autonomic symptoms, particularly constipation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-322
Number of pages8
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • COMT inhibitor
  • Dopamine agonist
  • Levodopa
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Treatment


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