We evaluated the efficacy, safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of pramipexole, a novel dopamine D2 receptor agonist, in early Parkinson's disease (PD). The study design was a parallel, placebo-controlled trial using an ascending dose of 4.5 mg/day pramipexole maximum. All subjects received selegiline (10 mg/day) but were not treated with levodopa. Of the 55 subjects who received at least one dose of the study medication, all but one, in the placebo group, completed the trial, which was 9 weeks in duration. The primary efficacy endpoints were changes in scores from baseline to final measurement on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) Parts II and III. The pramipexole group had a significantly greater improvement (p = 0.002) than the placebo group on UPDRS Part II (Activities of Daily Living). The change in score from baseline to final measurement on UPDRS Part III (Motor Examination) was not significantly different (p = 0.10) between the pramipexole and placebo groups, although the trend favoured the pramipexole group. All subjects in both the pramipexole and the placebo groups experienced one or more episodes of asymptomatic orthostatic hypotension; there was no significant difference between the pramipexole and the placebo groups in the number of subjects experiencing symptomatic orthostatic hypotension. The adverse events profile of pramipexole was similar, in general, to that of other dopamine receptor agonists. Plasma pramipexole levels increased linearly with dose. Pramipexole appears to be promising agent in the treatment of early PD.