History of levodopa and dopamine agonists in Parkinson's disease treatment.Neurology. 1998 Jun; 50(6 Suppl 6):S2-10; discussion S44-8.Neur
Striatal dopamine deficiency in Parkinson's disease (PD), first described in 1960, was a key event that led to the era of levodopa therapy. In 1961, levodopa was first tried in PD patients, but throughout most of the 1960s the results were inconsistent. In 1967, questions about the effectiveness of levodopa in PD were finally set aside when Cotzias and colleagues reported dramatic improvement in PD patients with oral administration of levodopa in increasing amounts over long periods. The major side effects of levodopa administration, i.e., dyskinesias and motor fluctuations, also became apparent at this time. In the early 1970s, the advantages of adding a dopa decarboxylase inhibitor to treatment were discovered--reducing side effects and gaining better symptom control--and the first levodopa combination, carbidopa/levodopa, became commercially available in 1975. Since then, PD researchers have attempted to overcome complications with such techniques as continuous levodopa infusion and, most recently, long-acting levodopa combinations. A dopamine agonist, apomorphine, was used in 1970 as a means to overcome side effects and loss of levodopa efficacy. However, side effects and difficulty of administration limited its use. Dopamine agonists began to find a place in routine treatment of PD after the discovery of bromocriptine's benefits in PD in 1974. Since then, new approaches have been tried, such as dopamine agonist monotherapy and early therapy in combination with levodopa. The development of new dopamine agonists has led to characterization of dopamine receptor subtypes and agonists targeted to stimulation of specific receptors.