Importance: Parkinson disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide. Although no available therapies alter the underlying neurodegenerative process, symptomatic therapies can improve patient quality of life.
Objective: To provide an evidence-based review of the initial pharmacological management of the classic motor symptoms of Parkinson disease; describe management of medication-related motor complications (such as motor fluctuations and dyskinesia), and other medication adverse effects (nausea, psychosis, and impulse control disorders and related behaviors); and discuss the management of selected nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson disease, including rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, cognitive impairment, depression, orthostatic hypotension, and sialorrhea.
Evidence review: References were identified using searches of PubMed between January 1985 and February 2014 for English-language human studies and the full database of the Cochrane Library. The classification of studies by quality (classes I-IV) was assessed using the levels of evidence guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology and the highest-quality data for each topic.
Results: Although levodopa is the most effective medication available for treating the motor symptoms of Parkinson disease, in certain instances (eg, mild symptoms, tremor as the only or most prominent symptom, aged <60 years) other medications (eg, monoamine oxidase type B inhibitors [MAOBIs], amantadine, anticholinergics, β-blockers, or dopamine agonists) may be initiated first to avoid levodopa-related motor complications. Motor fluctuations may be managed by modifying the levodopa dosing regimen or by adding several other medications, such as MAOBIs, catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors, or dopamine agonists. Impulse control disorders are typically managed by reducing or withdrawing dopaminergic medication, particularly dopamine agonists. Evidence-based management of some nonmotor symptoms is limited by a paucity of high-quality positive studies.
Conclusions and relevance: Strong evidence supports using levodopa and dopamine agonists for motor symptoms at all stages of Parkinson disease. Dopamine agonists and drugs that block dopamine metabolism are effective for motor fluctuations and clozapine is effective for hallucinations. Cholinesterase inhibitors may improve symptoms of dementia and antidepressants and pramipexole may improve depression. Evidence supporting other therapies for motor and nonmotor features is less well established.