Objective: To test the efficacy, tolerance, and safety of low-dose oral estrogen in postmenopausal women with PD associated with motor fluctuations.
Background: Motor fluctuations in PD may be predictable or unpredictable, and eventually affect most patients after long-term levodopa therapy. Although estrogen can modulate nigrostriatal dopamine levels, its effects on PD are unclear.
Methods: Patients were randomized to receive conjugated estrogen (oral Premarin 0.625 mg daily; n = 20) or placebo (n = 20) in a double-blind, parallel-group, prospective study over 8 weeks. Existing antiparkinsonian drug regimes were kept unchanged. Changes in "on" and "off" periods using patient diaries, Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) score, timed tapping score, and Hamilton Depression Scale score were determined by one rater. Subgroup analyses were also performed on patients with only predictable motor fluctuations.
Results: Both treatment groups were similar in age, duration of disease and menopause, antiparkinsonian medication, and compliance with test medication and diary assessments. "On" and "off" times, and motor score (UPDRS subscale III) improved with estrogen, using the Mann-Whitney U test (p < 0.05 after Bonferroni adjustment). Mean "on" time improved by 7% (9 hours/week of awake time) in estrogen-treated patients versus a deterioration of 0.5% (1.4 hours) in placebo-treated patients (95% confidence interval, [CI] of mean difference, 5.73 to 14.9). Mean "off" time improved by 4% (4.4 hours/week of awake time) in estrogen-treated patients versus no change in placebo-treated patients (95% CI, 1.54 to 7.16). Mean subscale III score improved by 3.5 points in estrogen-treated patients versus 0.4 in placebo-treated patients (95% CI, 1.02 to 5.18). No other significant changes were observed (p > 0.05). Subgroup analyses in patients with only predictable motor fluctuations showed similar results, except improvement in mean subscale III score was marginally not significant (p = 0.07; 95% CI, 1.06 to 6.24). Five patients on estrogen had facial flushing, three had lower abdominal discomfort, and two had mild withdrawal vaginal bleeding. The adverse events were mild and resolved without sequelae.
Conclusion: Low-dose estrogen is a safe and effective adjunct therapy to existing antiparkinsonian treatment in reducing motor disability in postmenopausal women with PD associated with motor fluctuations.