Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 109–136 | Cite as

Pharmacokinetic Optimisation in the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

An Update
Review Article


Pharmacotherapy for Parkinson’s disease is focused on dopaminergic drugs, mainly the dopamine precursor levodopa and dopamine receptor agonists. The elimination half-life (t½) of levodopa from plasma (in combination with a decarboxylase inhibitor) of about 1.5 hours becomes more influential as the disease progresses. The long-duration of response to levodopa, which is evident in early Parkinson’s disease, diminishes and after a few years of treatment motor performance is closely correlated to the fluctuating plasma concentrations of levodopa. Absorption of levodopa in the proximal small intestine depends on gastric emptying, which is erratic and may be slowed in Parkinson’s disease. The effects of levodopa on motor function are dependent on gastric emptying in patients in the advanced stages of disease.

The current treatment concept is continuous dopaminergic stimulation (CDS). Sustained-release formulations of levodopa may provide more stable plasma concentrations. Oral liquid formulations shorten the time to reach peak concentration and onset of effect but do not affect plasma levodopa variability. The t½ of levodopa can be prolonged by adding a catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitor (entacapone or tolcapone), which may reduce fluctuations in plasma concentrations, although both peak and trough concentrations are increased with frequent administration. Intravenous and enterai (duodenal/jejunal) infusions of levodopa yield stable plasma levodopa concentrations and motor performance. Enteral infusion is feasible on a long-term basis in patients with severe fluctuations.

Among the dopamine receptor agonists the ergot derivatives bromocriptine, cabergoline, dihydroergocryptine and pergolide, and the non-ergot derivatives piribedil, pramipexole and ropinirole, have longer t½ compared with levodopa. Thus, they stimulate dopamine receptors in a less pulsatile manner, yet pharmacokinetic studies of repeated doses of dopamine receptor agonists are few. Optimisation of these drugs is often performed with standardised titration schedules. Apomorphine and lisuride have short t½ and are suitable for subcutaneous infusion, with results similar to those of levodopa infusion. Transdermal administration of dopamine receptor agonists such as rotigotine might be an alternative in the future. In general, initial dopamine receptor agonist monotherapy is associated with poorer motor performance and lower incidence of motor complications compared with levodopa.

Buccal administration of the monoamine oxidase-B inhibitor Selegiline (deprenyl) provides better absorption and less formation of metabolites compared with standard tablets.

To conclude, several new drugs, formulations and routes of administration have been introduced in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease during the last decade, mainly with CDS as the aim. CDS can be approached by optimising the use of dopaminergic drugs based on pharmacokinetic data.


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© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience, NeurologyUppsala University HospitalUppsalaSweden

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