Pre-clinical studies of pramipexole: clinical relevance

Eur J Neurol. 2000 May;7 Suppl 1:15-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-1331.2000.0070s1015.x.


This paper reviews the preclinical study of the novel dopamine agonist pramipexole and its use in early Parkinson's disease (PD). Emphasis will be given to those properties distinguishing this drug from other dopamine agonists, the relevance of the preclinical data to clinical trial results in early PD, and the putative neuroprotective properties of the compound. The conventional dopamine agonists are ergot-derived compounds that are most widely used as adjunctive therapies in advancing Parkinson's disease (PD). Examples of conventional agonists are bromocriptine and pergolide. Pramipexole is an aminobenzothiazole compound, recently introduced for the treatment of both early and advanced PD. Its nonergot structure may reduce the risk of side-effects, considered unique to ergot drugs, such as membranous fibrosis. Pramipexole is a full dopamine agonist with high selectivity for the D2 dopamine receptor family. This family includes the D2, D3 and D4 receptor subtypes. Pramipexole has a 5- to 7-fold greater affinity for the D3 receptor subtype with lower affinities for the D2 and D4 receptor subtypes. The drug has only minimal alpha2-adrenoceptor activity and virtually no other receptor agonism or antagonism. The optimal dopamine receptor activation for the safe and effective treatment of PD is not known. Findings in animal models and clinical studies indicate that activation of the postsynaptic D2 receptor subtype provides the most robust symptomatic improvement in PD. Given its pharmacological profile, it is not surprising that pramipexole was found to be effective in ameliorating parkinsonian signs in animal models. This therapeutic effect has been confirmed in clinical trials in both early and advanced PD. In early disease, it provides a clear reduction in the chief motor manifestations of PD and improved activities of daily living. Perhaps most striking is the large number of clinical trial patients who have remained on pramipexole monotherapy for many months. The majority of these subjects have been maintained on pramipexole for an excess of 24 months without requiring additional symptomatic treatment with levodopa. This is in contrast to the general clinical experience with older conventional agonists. Pramipexole also has a favourable pharmacokinetic profile. It is rapidly absorbed with peak levels appearing in the bloodstream within 2 h of oral dosing. It has a high absolute bioavailability of > 90% and can be administered without regard to meals. It has no significant effects on other antiparkinson drugs such as levodopa or selegiline. Its excretion is primarily renal and, thus, has little or no impact on hepatic cytochrome P450 enzymes or other related metabolic pathways. Pramipexole has also been theorized to have 'neuroprotectant' properties. Oxyradical generation is posited as a cause or accelerant of brain nigral cell death in PD. Pramipexole stimulates brain dopamine autoreceptors and reduces dopamine synthesis and turnover which may minimize oxidative stress due to dopamine metabolism. Furthermore, the compound has a low oxidation potential that may serve as an oxyradical scavenger in the PD brain. In summary, pramipexole is a new antiparkinson medication found to have unique dopamine agonist characteristics and putative neuroprotective properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzothiazoles
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Pramipexole
  • Thiazoles / pharmacology*


  • Benzothiazoles
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Thiazoles
  • Pramipexole