The clinical relevance of a long-duration response (LDR) to levodopa therapy in Parkinson's disease (PD) has not been widely recognized. In 25 patients with moderate PD, we measured LDR on motor function after short periods of treatment with levodopa (subacute tests). Each subacute test lasted 15 days and consisted of the oral administration of levodopa at various interdose intervals (IDIs) of 48, 24, 12, 8, 6, and 5 hours. The goal for a subacute test was to achieve a satisfactory antiparkinsonian effect before the last levodopa dose (day 15), i.e., an LDR greater than 50% of the maximal response following an acute levodopa test (LDR-endpoint). Twenty-one patients (84%) reached the LDR-endpoint. The IDI at which levodopa was administered clearly differentiated patients who were otherwise clinically indistinguishable when evaluated at baseline off medication or after an acute levodopa test. The IDI schedule that produced a satisfactory LDR was specific for each patient, since longer DIs failed to produce the required LDR, and a shorter IDI schedule (resulting in larger cumulative dosage of levodopa) did not significantly enhance the response. Also, the LDR decay rate after discontinuation of treatment was individual for each patient and independent of the cumulative amount of levodopa administered. Both the IDI schedule and the LDR decay rate may reflect the ability of nigrostriatal neurons to store and to release dopamine formed from the exogenous precursor. The assessment of the LDR to levodopa by subacute tests is useful for establishing the appropriate dose of the drug, as well as for developing levodopa sparing strategies in PD patients.