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Choosing Between Parkinson's Drugs

Two medications work on different symptoms in early stages

WEDNESDAY, July 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Doctors have identified two drugs that are reasonable options for initial treatment of Parkinson's disease, but both have different side effects and potential results.

Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurologic disorder, is believed to be linked to low levels of the important neurotransmitter dopamine in certain parts of the brain.

The drugs levodopa and pramipexole both help restore dopamine levels in the brain. Levodopa is converted to dopamine by the body, while pramipexole mimics the role of dopamine.

But doctors at the University of Rochester found that the drugs initially treat different symptoms of Parkinson's.

Initial treatment by levodopa reduced the risk of "freezing" motor function, sleepiness, and excess fluid in the tissues. Initial treatment by pramipexole reduced uncontrollable body movements, and its effects lasted longer.

After four years, however, both groups were no longer bothered by disabling uncontrollable body movements, and both had a similar quality of life.

The results appear in the July issue of the Archives of Neurology.

More information

The National Institute of Neurologocal Disorders and Stroke has a page on Parkinson's disease.

SOURCES: American Medical Association, news release, July 19, 2004
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