Treatment of psychosis in Parkinson's disease: safety considerations

Drug Saf. 2003;26(9):643-59. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200326090-00004.


Psychosis only rarely occurs in patients with untreated Parkinson's disease. Much more commonly, psychosis is induced by drug therapy for Parkinson's disease and is the strongest known risk factor for nursing home placement. Delusions are less frequent than hallucinations, but are more concerning as they are often paranoid in nature. Treatment begins with a search for correctable infectious, toxic, and metabolic aetiologies. If symptoms persist, anti-Parkinson's disease medications are slowly reduced. However, withdrawal of these drugs usually worsens parkinsonism and is often not tolerated. Certain atypical antipsychotics can be used to treat psychosis without compromising motor function. The choice of atypical antipsychotic is largely based on ease of use and adverse effect profile as most have comparable efficacy in improving psychosis. Currently, there are five marketed atypical drugs - clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine and ziprasidone. Ziprasidone is the only agent whose adverse effect profile has not been reported in Parkinson's disease. The most common adverse effects of clozapine in Parkinson's disease are sedation, orthostatic hypotension and sialorrhoea. Sedation is generally helpful since these patients are frequently awake at night and tend to have worse behavioural problems then. Clozapine does not induce deterioration of motor function, but it has the potential to cause agranulocytosis, which is idiosyncratic and not dose-related. In risperidone-treated Parkinson's disease patients, reported adverse effects include somnolence, sialorrhoea, dizziness, palpitations, constipation, delirium, fatigue, leg cramps, depression, urinary incontinence and hypotension. Although in some Parkinson's disease studies, risperidone has been well tolerated, others have shown that many patients are unable to tolerate the drug due to deterioration of motor function. While an initial study of olanzapine in Parkinson's disease psychosis showed the drug to be effective without deterioration of motor function, succeeding reports demonstrated a deleterious effect of the drug on motor functioning. The most common adverse effects of quetiapine in Parkinson's disease patients are sedation and orthostatic hypotension. There is a lack of double-blind trials; however, cumulative reports involving >200 Parkinson's disease patients strongly suggest that quetiapine is well tolerated and effective. Unlike clozapine, it does not improve tremor and may induce mild deterioration of motor function. Recently, cholinesterase inhibitors have been reported to alleviate psychosis in Parkinson's disease. Although ondansetron, an antiemetic with antiserotonergic properties, has been reported to relieve psychosis in Parkinson's disease, its prohibitive cost has prevented further study in this population. Electroconvulsive treatment is generally reserved for the patient with psychotic depression who is unable to tolerate any pharmacological therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / chemically induced
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / psychology
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology


  • Antipsychotic Agents