Milestones in Parkinson's disease therapeutics

Mov Disord. 2011 May;26(6):1072-82. doi: 10.1002/mds.23714.


In the mid-1980s, the treatment of Parkinson's disease was quite exclusively centered on dopatherapy and was focusing on dopamine systems and motor symptoms. A few dopamine agonists and a monoamine oxidase B inhibitor (selegiline) were used as adjuncts in advanced Parkinson's disease. In the early 2010s, levodopa remains the gold standard. New insights into the organization of the basal ganglia paved the way for deep brain stimulation, especially of the subthalamic nucleus, providing spectacular improvement of drug-refractory levodopa-induced motor complications. Novel dopamine agonists (pramipexole, ropinirole, rotigotine), catecholmethyltransferase inhibitors (entacapone), and monoamine oxidase B inhibitors (rasagiline) have also been developed to provide more continuous oral delivery of dopaminergic stimulation in order to improve motor outcomes. Using dopamine agonists early, before levodopa, proved to delay the onset of dyskinesia, although this is achieved at the price of potentially disabling daytime somnolence or impulse control disorders. The demonstration of an antidyskinetic effect of the glutamate antagonist amantadine opened the door for novel nondopaminergic approaches of Parkinson's disease therapy. More recently, nonmotor symptoms (depression, dementia, and psychosis) have been the focus of the first randomized controlled trials in this field. Despite therapeutic advances, Parkinson's disease continues to be a relentlessly progressive disorder leading to severe disability. Neuroprotective interventions able to modify the progression of Parkinson's disease have stood out as a failed therapeutic goal over the last 2 decades, despite potentially encouraging results with compounds like rasagiline. Newer molecular targets, new animal models, novel clinical trial designs, and biomarkers to assess disease modification have created hope for future therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amantadine / history
  • Amantadine / therapeutic use
  • Antiparkinson Agents / history*
  • Antiparkinson Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / history
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods
  • Dopamine Agents / history
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / history
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Pallidotomy / history
  • Pallidotomy / methods
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / history*
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Dopamine Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Amantadine