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Logo of behavneuroBehavioural Neurology
Behav Neurol. 2013; 26(4): 225–235.
PMCID: PMC5214930

The Role of Dopamine Replacement on the Behavioural Phenotype of Parkinson’s Disease


Objectives: The pharmacotherapy of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is often challenging as clinicians have to find a favourable balance between the efficacy on motor symptoms and side effect profiles of different dopaminergic medications. We aimed to assess the available evidence on the role of dopamine agonist monotherapy as an alternative to Levodopa in the treatment of motor symptoms of PD, along with the role of dopamine antagonists in the treatment of PD-related psychosis.

Methods: We performed a systematic literature review using the databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library Central register of controlled trials. Two searches were performed, ‘Search 1’ extracting trials on dopamine agonists, and ‘Search 2’ on atypical antipsychotics. Eligible studies were Double-blind Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) as outcome measures for Search 1 and 2, respectively.

Results: 16 relevant RCTs were extracted from the search results. Overall, dopamine agonists were shown to significantly improve UPDRS scores, with a mean percentage improvement of 14.4% compared to −1.9% in the control arm (P value < 0.05)However, their side effect profile illustrated they were associated with twice the incidence of psychotic symptoms in comparison to the controls. The results on the efficacy of atypical antipsychotics for the treatment of PD-related psychosis were not significant.

Conclusions: This evidence-based review confirmed that dopamine agonists can be an effective and safe treatment as monotherapy in PD, however psychotic symptoms remain a significant side effect. Atypical antipsychotics may not be relied upon for the correction of these symptoms due to inconsistent results about their efficacy.

Keywords: Antipsychotic, dopamine agonist, monotherapy, motor symptoms, Parkinson's disease, psychosis

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