A poor response to L-DOPA in addition to parkinsonian, cerebellar, and autonomic signs is commonly regarded as indicative of clinical multiple system atrophy (MSA). We compared the motor response to a single oral administration of 250 mg L-DOPA/25 mg carbidopa in eight MSA patients and eight Parkinson's disease (PD) patients with the "on-off" phenomenon, evaluating L-DOPA peripheral pharmacokinetics. Motor response was consistently good in all PD patients, but only four MSA patients had a (moderate) response. Pharmacokinetic parameters did not differ between the groups. The varying extent of putaminal damage could be responsible for the differing motor response to L-DOPA in MSA patients.