Recent developments in the pharmacological treatment of Parkinson's disease

Paul Tuite, Jennifer Riss

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. The decline of dopamine leads to motor dysfunctions manifested as tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia. The pharmacological treatment of choice for the past 30 years has primarily been the dopamine precursor levodopa. Although it is the most effective treatment available, it is clear that other drugs are needed in order to sustain a therapeutic benefit and to alleviate fluctuations in mobility (i.e., motor fluctuations). Furthermore, there is some evidence that levodopa may hasten the occurrence of motor fluctuations and involuntary movements called dyskinesias. Hence, many clinicians delay the use of levodopa and employ the use of other symptomatic treatments including monoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B) inhibitors and dopamine agonists as first-line therapy in de novo patients. Regardless of treatment, the disease continues to progress as there is still no obvious means of altering disease progression (i.e., no neuroprotective therapy), to restore loss of dopamine (i.e., no restorative therapy) or prevent the disease (i.e. preventative therapy). With disease progression, polypharmacy is common and often employs a combination of antiparkinsonian agents. There have been some key advances in treatment with the advent of MAO-B inhibitors, dopamine agonists and catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors; however, the arsenal of drug treatment remains limited. As the mechanism of PD is further elucidated, novel drug treatments will continue to emerge in the areas of preventative, restorative or symptomatic therapy. Despite the purpose of treatment, the ideal pharmacological drug for PD will include the presence of a safe side-effect profile, a simple dosing schedule, the ability to provide symptomatic relief and the potential to alter disease progression. The purpose of this article is to examine upcoming antiparkinsonian drugs in clinical trials based on their pharmacology, safety and efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1335-1352
Number of pages18
JournalExpert Opinion on Investigational Drugs
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Adenosine antagonists
  • Dopamine agonists
  • GDNF
  • MAO inhibitors
  • Neuroprotective
  • Neurorestorative
  • Parkinson's disease

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