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Types of medication

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but medication can usually provide good symptom control for a long time. Meanwhile researchers continue to search for a cure, and research into new and improved medicines continues.

A wide range of Parkinson’s medications are available. These may be taken in many different forms. Your doctor will try to find the medication most suitable for you throughout your Parkinson’s treatment.

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Parkinson's medication overview
Generic name Brand name ® Generic name Brand name ®

Levodopa [oral]

COMT inhibitors

  • Co-careldopa
  • Co-careldopa
  • Co-beneldopa
  • Co-careldopa / entacapone combination
  • Entacapone
  • Tolcapone
  • Co-careldopa / entacapone combination
  • Opicapone

Levodopa [intestinal infusion]

MAO-B inhibitors

  • Co-careldopa
  • Selegiline
  • Selegiline
  • Rasagiline

Dopamine agonists [oral]


  • Bromocriptine
  • Cabergoline
  • Lisuride
  • Pergolide
  • Pramipexole
  • Ropinirole
  • Benztropine
  • Orphenadrine
  • Procyclidine
  • Trihexyphenidyl (formerly benzhexol)
  • Cogentin
  • Disipal 1
  • Apricolin 7
    Kemadrin 1
  • Broflex 7

Dopamine agonists [transdermal]


  • Rotigotine
  • Amantadine

Dopamine agonists [subcutaneous]

Pending classification (both dopaminergic & non dopaminergic actions)

  • Apomorphine
  • Safinamide
  Key to forms available: 
1. Tablet or capsule
2. Controlled release tablet
3. Intestinal gel
4. Skin patch
5. Pre-filled pen
6. Pre-filled syringe
7. Liquid or syrup

Last updated: Mar 2015

Oral medication

Many Parkinson’s medicines are taken orally (through the mouth), usually in tablet or capsule form. A few are also available as a syrup.

Transdermal medication

Transdermal means ‘through the skin’. Some medicines may be prescribed in transdermal form such as a patch. This type of medication is delivered through the skin and then slowly and continuously absorbed into the bloodstream.


As Parkinson’s progresses you may find that oral medication does not adequately control your symptoms. If this happens, your doctor may recommend treatment delivered by a device such as a pump so that treatment is delivered in a more continuous way, known as continuous dopaminergic stimulation which can help to smooth out fluctuations in symptom control. 

Continuous dopaminergic stimulation 

In a healthy brain, dopamine-producing neurons fire continuously to maintain relatively constant levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. In people with Parkinson’s, levodopa is prescribed to boost falling levels of dopamine production in the brain. But taking intermittent doses of oral levodopa in the long-term is linked to the development of motor (movement) symptoms.

It is the brain's normal continuous pattern of stimulating the dopamine-producing neurons, and thus maintaining more constant levels of dopamine, that continuous dopaminergic stimulation (CDS) aims to imitate. This continuous rather than intermittent pattern seems to prevent or delay motor symptoms, or reduce their intensity.

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To find out more about the main medications used to treat Parkinson’s click here.

Last updated: Mar 2015

Deep brain stimulation & other surgical treatments 

Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

As Parkinson’s progresses you may find that medication does not adequately control your symptoms. If this happens, your doctor may recommend deep brain stimulation (DBS).

DBS is a treatment option for people with Parkinson's whose motor (movement) symptoms no longer respond adequately to medication. DBS is also used for other movement disorders such as dystonia and essential tremor.

DBS therapy uses a small, pacemaker-like device to send electronic signals to a precise area in the brain that controls movement (either the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or the internal globus pallidus) via very thin wires. Stimulation of these areas appears to block the brain messages that cause disabling motor symptoms and so can provide greater symptom control. Each person has a programmer and once this has been programmed by a specialist, the programmer can be adjusted to give a level of stimulation that provides the best possible symptom control. For the right candidate, this can provide greater control over body movement and so improve quality of life but DBS is not suitable and will not work for everyone.

For more detailed information see:

Other surgical treatments

Over time, medication may no longer effectively control Parkinson’s symptoms. In some carefully selected cases, surgery may help. Neurosurgery (surgery of the brain) focuses on three target areas to treat Parkinson’s:

  • the subthalamic nucleus (STN) – this seems to be the site that helps most symptoms so is more favoured
  • the thalamus - for treating drug-resistant tremor
  • the globus pallidum internus (GPi), a part of the globus pallidus - for treating stiffness, dyskinesia and akinesia, dystonia and pain

The choice of treatment and the target selected is based on a careful evaluation of each patient and his or her needs.

Neurosurgery is usually only considered for people with Parkinson’s whose symptoms are no longer adequately controlled by medication. It is generally not recommended for anyone with psychiatric problems, dementia, cerebrovascular disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure or for people over 75.

The first step when considering surgery is to discuss it with your doctor. He or she will then refer you to both a neurologist and a neurosurgeon who specialise in treating Parkinson’s. Each form of surgery carries its own risks and you should discuss these, and the likely benefits, with the experts. 

Your neurosurgeon will answer your questions and explain what the surgery involves and what happens afterwards. You may also want to ask how many operations the surgeon has performed and the results that have been achieved.


This involves very carefully damaging a particular part of the brain. The damage is called a lesion. Computer imaging is used to locate the target site precisely. The lesion is made by inserting an electrode with its tip at the site and then passing an electric current through the tip.

There are currently three target areas for lesioning:

  • Pallidotomy – This is the most common lesioning technique, in which a lesion is made in the GPi area of the brain. This is usually only carried out on one side of the brain; more rarely both sides are lesioned to control severe symptoms, but the risks are greater. 
  • Thalamotomy – A lesion is made in the thalamus, usually only on one side, as treating both sides is thought to be too risky. 
  • Subthalamotomy – A lesion is made in the STN area of the brain. This is less commonly used because it carries higher risks and the long-term effects are unclear. 

Because lesioning is irreversible and cannot be modified without further surgery, it is not ideal and is unlikely to be a long-term treatment option.

Gamma knife surgery

This is a type of radiotherapy which involves directing gamma radiation through the skull at damaged brain tissue. The risks of this surgery are relatively high compared to other techniques and it is therefore not currently considered practical.

Other surgical techniques under research 

For information on other techniques currently under research see Current research.

Last updated: October 2015

Managing your medication

The aim of medication is to manage your Parkinson’s symptoms so as to maintain or improve your quality of life. Each person responds differently to a medicine, so you will need to work closely with your specialist or Parkinson’s Disease Nurse Specialist if you have one, to find the right combination and dose that works best for you. This may take time. Together, you will monitor your response to the treatment so that changes can be made if needed. It is important to tell your doctor about any change in symptoms or side effects you experience.

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Your MDT care team and therapists

Many people with Parkinson's find it helps to be aware of different treatment options, their advantages and disadvantages. Being aware of the various options will allow you to have a meaningful discussion with your care team and will help you to ask relevant questions and understand decisions you make with your doctor.

Read more about how the MDT care team can help >

Complementary therapies

Many people with Parkinson’s are interested in complementary therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and herbal medicine. These non-conventional treatments are often based on centuries-old techniques.

Although there is little scientific evidence about complementary therapies and Parkinson’s, many people with Parkinson’s seem to find complementary therapy techniques helpful, especially for relaxation and to reduce stress and depression. This section provides a guide to complementary therapies in general as well as specific techniques that people with Parkinson’s have tried.

Always consult your doctor before trying any form of complementary therapy. Depending on how Parkinson’s affects you, some techniques may not be suitable, and some herbal medicines could react badly with medicines used to treat Parkinson’s.


Assessment tools

In recent years a number of Parkinson’s assessment tools have been developed. Some help doctors and neurologists to make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. They use chemical compounds containing a small amount radioactive compounds that can be detected using imaging equipment. These help to assess structures deep inside the brain that cannot be seen or easily measured.

Others tools use computer programmes to monitor your symptoms and provide objective feedback to your care team. This information can be helpful, for example in prescribing more effective treatments or adjusting deep brain stimulation settings. It can also reveal how you are responding to new treatments. 


So far no cure has been found for Parkinson’s, but researchers are constantly trying to develop new methods of diagnosis and find ever more effective ways of treating and managing the disease.

Active research continues in the following areas:

  • identifying people at risk
  • early and accurate diagnosis
  • preventing progression of the condition after diagnosis
  • repairing damaged brain cells
  • developing new medications and treatments



We acknowledge the help of members of our Multidisciplinary expert review panel in compiling this information.

The information in this website is not a substitute for advice from your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare professional.

  • Consult your doctor if you have any doubts about the correct use of your medication or any other aspects of your Parkinson's management.
  • Remember that information on medications can change so always read the patient information leaflet that comes with each medicine.
  • Make sure your care team know about any other medical conditions you have and any other medications you take (including, non-prescription, over the counter drugs, herbal and complementary remedies)
  • Don't stop your medication or change the dose suddenly without first seeking advice from your doctor, Parkinson's Disease Nurse Specialist (PDNS) or other healthcare professional.
  • Some medications need to be taken in different ways or at different times, so it is important to follow the instructions you are given for taking each individual medication so that it works properly, and to be sure you know the correct dose.
  • If you are admitted to hospital, make sure that doctors and nurses know that you have Parkinson's. You, your family or carer should also inform them of your medication and the times you need to take them.
  • Some medications can make you sleepy, at times suddenly and without warning. Make sure you understand any safety implications, for example whether you can drive.
  • Whilst reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the site content is accurate and up-to-date, we make no warranties or representations about accuracy, sequence, timeliness or completeness of the Site content.

Please be aware that there may be national differences between countries regarding specific medical information, including licensed uses.