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Prescription Medications

Although there are general guidelines that doctors use to choose a treatment regimen, each person with Parkinson’s disease (PD) must be individually evaluated to determine which drug or combination of medications is best for them. For some, a “first choice” drug might be one of the levodopaThe medication most commonly given to control the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s, usually with carbidopa. It is converted in the brain into dopamine. preparations, and for others, an initial prescription may be given for one of the agonists, an MAO inhibitor or an anticholinergic A substance that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system; typically the main ingredient in over-the-counter sleep aids and many allergy medications (e.g., Benadryl). Trihexyphenidyl (formerly Artane), benztropine (Cogentin) and ethopropazine (Parsitan) are typical Parkinson’s medications in this class..

The choice of medication treatment depends on many variables including symptoms present, other existing health issues (and the medications being used to treat them) and age. Dosages vary greatly depending on a person’s needs and metabolism.

Since most symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are caused by a lack of dopamine A chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that regulates movement and emotions. in the brain, many PD drugs are aimed at either temporarily replenishing dopamine or mimicking the action of dopamine. These types of drugs are called dopaminergic medications. They generally help reduce muscle rigidity In Parkinson’s, stiffness of the arms or legs beyond what would result from normal aging or arthritis. Some people call it “tightness” in their limbs., improve speed and coordination of movement and lessen tremor Involuntary shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw or tongue. The typical Parkinson’s tremor is “pill-rolling” – it looks like holding a pill between thumb and forefinger and continuously rolling it around. Some people report an internal tremor, a shaking sensation inside the chest, abdomen or limbs that cannot be seen. Most Parkinson’s tremor is “resting tremor,” which lessens during sleep and when the body part is actively in use..

Always remember that medication is only part of the overall treatment plan for combatting PD. Learn more about the available medications, but don't forget exercise and complementary therapies.

Caution: PD medications may have interactions with certain foods, other medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, over-the-counter cold pills and other remedies. Anyone taking a PD medication should talk to their doctor and pharmacist about potential drug interactions.

Page reviewed by Dr. Chauncey Spears, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.

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