The efficacies of ropinirole and levodopa were compared after 6 months of treatment in a planned interim analysis of a 5-year, double-blind, randomized, multicenter study of patients with early Parkinson's disease requiring dopaminergic therapy. The percentage of improvement in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale total motor examination score was significantly higher for levodopa (44%) than for ropinirole (32%). The proportion of "responders" (Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale improvement of at least 30%) did not differ between groups (levodopa, 58%; ropinirole, 48%). There was no difference between the groups for improvement on the Clinical Global Impression scale in patients with Hoehn and Yahr stages I, I.5, or II, but a significantly higher proportion of patients with Hoehn and Yahr stages II.5 or III showed Clinical Global Impression score improvement with levodopa. Emergent adverse events occurred in 84% of patients in both treatment groups, the principal symptom in each group being nausea. The incidence of serious adverse events was low (8% for ropinirole, 9% for levodopa). The results suggest that ropinirole and levodopa are equally effective in less severe Parkinson's disease; in more advanced Parkinson's disease, levodopa is superior.