Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of levodopa were evaluated at a high-resolution level in a heterogeneous group of 10 patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease during their normal daily activity. A physician and a nurse spent 10 hours with each patient from the first morning dose of levodopa during daily activities at home and at work. Plasma samples were obtained every 20 minutes for analysis of levodopa and 3-O-methyldopa by high-performance liquid chromatography. To assess clinical response, mobility was rated on every test occasion by patients and by investigators. Food and fluid intake and physical activity were also monitored. There was a large intra- and interindividual variability in the pharmacokinetics of levodopa regardless of the different drug combinations used. Mean plasma levodopa concentration ranged between 0.45 to 7.07 microg/mL and peak concentrations between 0.95 to 13.75 microg/mL. In 44 of 58 dosing events, an oral dose of levodopa was related to a peak in plasma concentration. Assessment of the clinical effects was more sensitive when given by patients than when given by the investigators. The fluctuations of the levodopa concentration in plasma had a clear effect on the clinical parameters assessed, even during early disease stages. Variation in levodopa concentration is the determining factor for motor fluctuations also in patients on clinically optimized combinations with dopamine agonists and enzyme inhibitors.