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Types of Parkinson's 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.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger made in the brain. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are largely associated with a decrease in the levels of this chemical, due to the death of the nerve cells that make it.

Unfortunately, taking dopamine as a drug treatment would not help you, because it cannot cross into your brain where it is needed. There are a number of approaches that can be taken to try to compensate for the dopamine deficit and therefore alleviate the symptoms of the condition.  Ultimately these will increase the levels of dopamine and help to overcome some of the symptoms of the condition. However, many of the medications may have side effects which should be taken into account when being prescribed.

A wide range of Parkinson’s medications is available. These may be taken in many different forms. Your doctor will try to find the medication that is most suitable for you throughout your Parkinson’s treatment. What is available will also depend on the country in which you live.

Medication names and forms

Most medications have two names. The generic (common or unbranded) name describes the active ingredient in the drug. Every drug that has the same active ingredient will have the same generic name, no matter who manufactures it. The different drug companies who produce the medication market it using a brand or trade name and these may vary from country to country.

For example, the levodopa group of drugs can exist in a number of forms. Each of these contains the chemical levodopa in combination with a second chemical called carbidopa. Together, these are referred to as co-careldopa.

Parkinson's medication overview
(This lists the most commonly used medications but is not an exhaustive list)
Generic name Common brand names ® Generic name Common brand names ®

Levodopa [oral]

COMT inhibitors

  • Co-careldopa (levodopa with carbidopa)
  • Co-careldopa (levodopa with carbidopa)
  • Co-beneldopa (levodopa with benserazide)
  • Co-careldopa / entacapone combination
  • Sinemet 1,2
  • Lecado 2
  • Madopar 1,2
  • Stalevo 1
  • Entacapone
  • Tolcapone
  • Co-careldopa / entacapone combination
  • Opicapone
  • Comtess/Comtan 1
  • Tasmar 1
  • Stalevo 1
  • Ongentys 1

Levodopa [intestinal infusion]

MAO-B inhibitors

  • Co-careldopa (levodopa with carbidopa)
  • Duodopa 3
  • Selegiline
  • Selegiline
  • Rasagiline
  • Safinamide
  • Eldepryl 1,7
  • Zelapar 1
  • Azilect 1
  • Xadago 1

Dopamine agonists [oral]

Anticholinergics

  • Bromocriptine
  • Cabergoline
  • Lisuride
  • Pergolide
  • Pramipexole
  • Ropinirole
  • Parlodel 1
  • Cabaser 1
  • Revanil
  • Celance 1
  • Mirapexin/Sifrol 1,2
  • Requip 1,2
  • Benztropine
  • Orphenadrine
  • Procyclidine
  • Trihexyphenidyl (formerly benzhexol)
  • Cogentin
  • Disipal 1
  • Apricolin 7
    Kemadrin 1
  • Broflex 7

Dopamine agonists [transdermal]

Amantadine

  • Rotigotine
  • Neupro 4
  • Amantadine
  • Symmetrel 1,7

Dopamine agonists [subcutaneous]

 Key to forms available
  • Apomorphine
  • Apo-go  5,6
  • Dacepton  5,6
  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

Not all medications are available in each of the European countries, and they may have different brand names. You can obtain further details from your national regulatory authority. Contact details can be obtained from the European Medicines Agency website.

Oral and transdermal medications, and infusions

Medications come in various forms including capsules, tablets or patches. Some are available in liquid form or as dispersible powders for people who have difficulty swallowing.

Oral medication

Most 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.

Infusions

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.

See Continuous dopaminergic stimulation for detailed information.

Content last reviewed: July 2018

Acknowledgement

We would like to thank Dr Kieran Breen, PhD (St. Andrews Healthcare, UK) for his help in reviewing this information.

Related reading

Articles from Parkinson's Life online magazine

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