The history of the use of pharmaceuticals to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) began 125 years ago, when belladonna alkaloids were first used in an attempt to control severe drooling in patients suffering from PD. These alkaloids possess anticholinergic activity, and unexpectedly, they alleviated other characteristic symptoms of PD, which include tremor, rigidity, akinesia and postural instability. However, it was not until 1958 that researchers discovered the presence of high levels of dopamine in the striatum of the brain and showed that the dopamine precursor (levodopa or L-dopa) reversed the tranquillization and parkinsonian-like motor impairments induced by treatment with reserpine. This set the stage for the development of the first real pharmacotherapy for treatment of PD.
Sanjiv CC, DM,
Tsui JKC, MD, FRCPC
Neurodegenerative Disorders Centre,
University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, BC, Canada
At present, there is no pharmacological cure for Parkinson's disease (PD) and only the symptoms of the disease can be treated. There is no firm evidence to support the notion that any drug has a neuroprotective action in PD; therefore, the mainstay of current drug therapy is the manipulation of the dopaminergic pathways.
L-dopa is the most commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of PD.