Although there are general guidelines that doctors use to choose a treatment regimen, each person with Parkinson’s disease (PD) must be individually evaluated to determine which drug or combination of medications is best for them. For some, a “first choice” drug might be one of the levodopa preparations, and for others, an initial prescription may be given for one of the agonists, an MAO inhibitor or an anticholinergic.
The choice of medication treatment depends on many variables including symptoms present, other existing health issues (and the medications being used to treat them) and age. Dosages vary greatly depending on a person’s needs and metabolism.
Since most symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain, many PD drugs are aimed at either temporarily replenishing dopamine or mimicking the action of dopamine. These types of drugs are called dopaminergic medications. They generally help reduce muscle rigidity, improve speed and coordination of movement and lessen tremor.
Always remember that medication is only part of the overall treatment plan for combatting PD. Learn more about the available medications, but don't forget exercise and complementary therapies.
Caution: PD medications may have interactions with certain foods, other medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, over-the-counter cold pills and other remedies. Anyone taking a PD medication should talk to their doctor and pharmacist about potential drug interactions.
- PDF of the Medications Book
- Recording: 2018 Expert Briefing Webinar: PD and Medication: What’s New?
- Podcast Episode 13: Generic Drugs for Parkinson’s
- Podcast Episode 34: New Pathways & Drug Development
Page reviewed by Dr. Chauncey Spears, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.