You can find out more about NPF's National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, by also visiting the NPF Center of Excellence, University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders & Neurorestoration.
What are the worst drugs for Parkinson’s disease patients? Couldn’t a simple list be assembled and disseminated to the Parkinson’s community? Recently Ed Steinmetz, an experienced neurologist in Ft. Meyers, FL pointed out to me, a list approach published in the Public Citizen Newsletter (www.worstpills.org). The approach was to list every drug associated with a single confirmed or unconfirmed symptom of Parkinson’s disease or parkinsonism. Parkinson’s disease is defined as a neurodegenerative syndrome (common symptoms include tremor, stiffness, slowness, posture and gait issues), whereas parkinsonism encompasses a wider net of drug induced and other potential causes. In parkinsonism, symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease, but patients do not have Parkinson’s disease. Patients and family members confronted with a simple “drug list” approach may falsely conclude that most medicines are bad for Parkinson’s disease, and that any medicine may cause parkinsonism. This concept is in general, incorrect.
Although the approach is well-meaning, it is in need of a major revision, as Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism are too complex to summarize by simple lists. In this month’s column, I will try to summarize the key information that patients and family members need to know about the “worst pills,” for Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism.
It is well known that drugs that block dopamine worsen Parkinson’s disease and also worsen parkinsonism, whereas dopamine replacement therapy (Carbidopa/Levodopa, Sinemet) may improve symptoms. One of the big issues facing many Parkinson’s disease patients is psychosis (hallucinations, illusions, and behavioral changes such as paranoia). How does one administer dopamine replacement therapy, which may in some cases induce psychosis, and at the same time administer dopamine blocker drugs aimed at alleviating psychosis? Will the drugs cancel each other out? There are two dopamine blockers that will not cancel out dopamine replacement, and therefore will not appreciably worsen Parkinson’s disease. One is Quetiapine (Seroquel), and the other is Clozapine (Clozaril). Clozapine is the more powerful of the two drugs, but it requires weekly blood monitoring. Other classical dopamine blocking drugs, also referred to as neuroleptics (e.g. Haldol), worsen Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism.
Patients may not be aware that some common drugs used for conditions such as headache or gastrointestinal dysmotility may also block dopamine, and concomitantly worsen Parkinson’s disease, or alternatively result in parkinsonism. These drugs include Prochlorperazine (Compazine), Promethazine (Phenergan), and Metoclopramide (Reglan). They should be avoided. Also, drugs that deplete dopamine such as reserpine and tetrabenazine may worsen Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism and should be avoided in most cases. Substitute drugs that do not result in worsening of parkinsonism can be utilized, and these include Ondansetron (Zofran) for nausea, and erythromycin for gastrointestinal motility.
Antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, thyroid replacement drugs, and antihypertensives are in general safe, and do not worsen Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism. They appear commonly on lists such as that provided by the Public Citizen, but these lists are misleading. There may be rare reactions that lead to worsening of Parkinson’s disease or parkinsonism with these drugs, but these are very rare occurrences. The bigger issue is drug-drug interactions. The most commonly encountered in Parkinson’s disease is mixing a MAO-B Inhibitor (Selegline, Rasagiline, Azilect, Zelapar, Selegiline Hydrochloride Dissolvable) with a pain medicine such as Meperidine (Demerol). Also, MAO-A Inhibitors (e.g. Pirlindole) should not be taken with antidepressants. And finally it should be kept in mind that in rare instances mixing an antidepressant with another class of drugs can in select cases result in a serotonin syndrome. Finally, remember, there are very common “other” side effects of antidepressants, anxiolytic drugs, mood stabilizers, thyroid replacement drugs, and antihypertensives.
In summary, the list approach to the worst pills in Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism needs a critical reappraisal. A more refined approach would take into consideration the complexities of Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism, and would appreciate that with physician guidance, and with few exceptions, most drugs can be safely and effectively administered in Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism.
Posted: 1/3/2011 12:23:54 PM by
Browse current and archived What's Hot in PD? articles, the National Parkinson Foundation's monthly blog for people with Parkinson's written by our National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun.
IPX066 and What Patients Really Want in New Carbidopa/Levodopa (Sinemet) Formulations
The Weather Forecast for Parkinson’s Disease Calls for Worldwide Economic Storm
Defeating the Barriers to Implementing Exercise Regimens in Parkinson’s Disease Patients
When should you start medication therapy for Parkinson’s disease?
Neurologist Care Reduces Hospitalizations in Parkinson's Disease
A Victory in Court for Parkinson's Disease Patients who Require Ongoing Rehabilitative Therapies
Given the recent FDA announcement about Mirapex (pramipexole), should I be worried about dopamine agonists?
What about the new Parkinson’s Disease Vaccine? What should I know?
Caffeine as a Potential Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
Time to Consider GPi DBS for Parkinson’s Disease: A Shift in the Practice of Patient Selection for DBS
A New Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease-Related Constipation
Too Many Pills: Improving Delivery Systems for Parkinson’s Disease Drugs
Measuring Quality and Assessing Depression in Parkinson's Disease
Watch out for Unexpected Obstacles if You Use a Cueing Strategy to Break Freezing of Gait in Parkinson’s Disease
Pill Color, Generic Medications and Insurance Issues: Important Medication-Related Tips for the Parkinson’s Disease Patient
Are Blood Tests for Parkinson’s Disease on the Horizon?
Placing Stem Cells in Animal Models of Parkinson’s Disease: Another Important Step
Important News for the Parkinson’s Disease Community: More Evidence that Sinemet and Madopar are Not Toxic and do Not Accelerate Disease Progression
The Case for All Parkinson’s Disease Patients to be Co-managed by a Primary Care-Neurologist Team
Scientists say Research on Brain Proteins Involved in Parkinson’s Disease is “Shaping” Up
Who Actually Takes Care of Most of the Parkinson’s Patients Worldwide: The Need for Education and the Parkinson’s Toolkit
If you are Dizzy or Passing Out, it could be Your Parkinson’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease Medications
How Will Group Visits for Parkinson’s Disease Fit into the Future of Parkinson’s Disease Care?
Why Patients Should be Wary of Chelation Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease
Opening the Door to Gene Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease: The Need for Refinement of the Technology and Approach
Does it Matter if I Can’t Get Brand Sinemet?
Should I get a DaTscan or PET scan to confirm my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease?
A Critical Reappraisal of the Worst Drugs in Parkinson’s Disease
Environmental Risks for PD: Manganese, Welding, Mining, and Parkinsonism
Calling for the FDA to Revise the Eight Sinemet a Day Rule
Dry Cleaning Solvents and Potential Environmental Risks for Developing Parkinson’s Disease
Maintaining the Balance: Why Parkinson’s Disease Patients Need to Understand Drug Recalls, Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts
Shining a Light on Parkinson’s Disease: Optogenetics Has a Bright Future in Research
Poor Medication Management of Parkinson's Disease During Hospital Admissions: Patients and Families Can Improve Their Hospital-Based Management
Why Are Patches and Continuous Release Technology a Big Deal to Parkinson's?
Is the PD SURG Trial Another Surge Forward for DBS Therapy?
Cycling in PD in Those Who Can’t Walk: Is it Possible?
New iPS Stem Cells for PD: What Does it Mean?
Time for Comprehensive Care Networks for PD
Is Parkinson's Disease a Prion Disease?
Parkinson's Disease Linked to Gaucher's Disease
Brain Cells Keep Time Stamps: Implications for Parkinson's Disease Therapies
Is it Safe to Have an MRI with a DBS in Place?
Take Care of Your Bones as They Are Affected in Parkinson's Disease (Even in Men)
Is it Time to Start Paying Attention to Pain Symptoms in Parkinson's Disease Patients?
Glutathione Fails to Demonstrate Significant Improvement in PD Symptoms
Keeping an Eye on Trials Important to the Parkinson's Disease Patient
Increased Risk of Melanoma in Parkinson's Disease
Finally a DBS Expert Consensus Statement Aimed at Their True Customers: The Patients
Pesticides and Environmental Exposure in Parkinson's disease: Should We Stay Away From the Stink Truck?
Is Exercise Effective Treatment and Protection Against PD?
Why are Transplant Trials Struggling to Succeed in the Treatment of PD?
Are Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors Disease Modifying or Neuroprotective in PD?
Update on Gene Therapy for Parkinson's Disease