Drugs & Aging

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 687–709 | Cite as

Subcutaneous Apomorphine

An Evidence-Based Review of its Use in Parkinson’s Disease
  • Dirk DeleuEmail author
  • Yolande Hanssens
  • Margaret G. Northway
Review Article


Apomorphine, a short-acting dopamine D1 and D2 receptor agonist, was the first dopamine receptor agonist used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Subcutaneous apomorphine is currently used for the management of sudden, unexpected and refractory levodopa-induced ‘off’ states in fluctuating Parkinson’s disease either as intermittent rescue injections or continuous infusions. Other indications include the challenge test for determining the dopaminergic responsiveness and finding the appropriate dose of the drug in intermittent subcutaneous administration.

Except for a rapid on- and offset of the antiparkinsonian response with subcutaneous apomorphine, the magnitude and pattern of the motor response to single dose of subcutaneously administered apomorphine is qualitatively comparable to that of oral levodopa. Seventy-five percent of patients achieve a clinically significant improvement with a dose of apomorphine 4mg.

The efficacy of intermittent subcutaneous apomorphine injections as an add-on to levodopa therapy in advanced Parkinson’s disease was explored in one short-term, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, one short-term and six long-term, open-label, uncontrolled studies, including a total of 195 patients. These studies provide evidence that this mode of administration was successful in aborting ‘off’ periods and improving Parkinson’s disease motor scores, but tended to increase dyskinesias. No levodopa-sparing effect was observed.

Eleven long-term, open-label, uncontrolled studies, including a total of 233 patients evaluated the efficacy of continuous subcutaneous apomorphine infusions in monotherapy or as an add-on to levodopa therapy in advanced Parkinson’s disease. These studies proved that subcutaneous apomorphine infusions are successful in aborting ‘off’ periods, reducing dyskinesias and improving Parkinson’s disease motor scores with the added benefit of a substantial levodopa-sparing effect.

The apomorphine challenge test has at least 80% overall predictive ability to clinically diagnose Parkinson’s disease across the different stages of the disease and parkinsonian syndromes. Similarly, those data also indicate that the apomorphine challenge test has a >80% ability to predict dopaminergic responsiveness across all stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Adverse events are usually mild and consist predominantly of cutaneous reactions and neuropsychiatric adverse effects. The incidence of adverse effects is higher in patients receiving continuous infusion than in those receiving intermittent pulsatile administration.

Based on the results of these studies it is recommended that subcutaneous apomorphine either as intermittent injections or continuous infusions should be offered to any suitable Parkinson’s disease patient who has difficulties in his/her management with conventional therapy. Low-dose levodopa therapy in combination with waking-day hours subcutaneous apomorphine infusion would probably be the most efficient treatment. Continuous subcutaneous apomorphine infusions should be evaluated before more invasive measures or neurosurgical interventions are contemplated.


Levodopa Apomorphine Levodopa Therapy Dopamine Receptor Agonist Neuropsychiatric Adverse Effect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Deleu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yolande Hanssens
    • 2
  • Margaret G. Northway
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Neurology (Medicine)Hamad Medical CorporationDohaState of Qatar
  2. 2.Department of PharmacyHamad Medical CorporationDohaState of Qatar
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsSultan Qaboos UniversityAl KhodSultanate of Oman

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