How effective are dopamine agonists in the treatment of Parkinson disease (PD)?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Robert A Hauser, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Initial treatment with a dopamine agonist, to which levodopa can be added as necessary, is associated with fewer motor fluctuations and dyskinesias than levodopa alone in prospective, double-blind studies. Subsequent analyses of these studies indicate that the benefit of dopamine agonists in delaying motor symptoms is due to their ability to delay the need for levodopa/carbidopa. [51, 52] Commonly used dopamine agonists include pramipexole and ropinirole.

Dopamine agonists provide symptomatic benefit that is comparable to that with levodopa/carbidopa in early disease, but these agents lack sufficient efficacy to control signs and symptoms by themselves in more advanced disease. Dopamine agonists provide moderate symptomatic benefit and rarely cause fluctuations and dyskinesias by themselves, but they have more adverse effects than levodopa, including sleepiness, hallucinations, edema, and impulse control disorders. However, these adverse effects resolve upon lowering the dose or discontinuing the medication.

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