Parkinson’s Disease: An Update on Therapeutic Strategies

Daniel S Sa, MD and Robert Chen, MBBChir, MSc, FRCPC
Division of Neurology and Morton and Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.

The treatment of Parkinson's Disease (PD) has undergone major changes over the past decade with the introduction of new drugs and the development of more advanced and reliable surgical procedures. However, the role of each of these different treatment alternatives is not yet clearly defined. Frequently raised questions include the most appropriate treatment in early PD and determining which patients with more advanced PD are suitable for surgery. In this review, we will attempt to address some of these issues.

Initial Treatment
The first decision to make is when to begin treatment. Since there is no therapeutic strategy proven to halt or slow disease progression, treatment initiation should be related to the level of disability. Therefore, drug therapy should be initiated when symptoms are interfering with social or occupational functions. This is usually due to impaired motor function but sometimes is related to embarrassment.

The next question is which treatment to offer. There is a long-standing debate regarding whether to start with levodopa or dopamine agonists. The levodopa proponents argue that it is still the most effective therapy for PD, and early treatment (before postural instability) has been proven to reduce mortality.