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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Controversies in Neurology: why monoamine oxidase B inhibitors could be a good choice for the initial treatment of Parkinson's disease

Matthias Löhle* and Heinz Reichmann

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Dresden University of Technology, Fetscherstrasse 74, 01307 Dresden, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2011, 11:112  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-112

Published: 22 September 2011

Abstract

Background

Early initiation of pharmacotherapy in Parkinson's disease (PD) is nowadays widely advocated by experts since the delay of treatment has shown to be associated with a significant deterioration of health related quality of life in affected patients. Due to marked advances in PD treatment during the last decades, physicians are nowadays fortunately equipped with a variety of substances that can effectively ameliorate emerging motor symptoms of the disease, among them levodopa, dopamine agonists and monoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B) inhibitors. Despite numerous drug intervention trials in early PD, there is however still ongoing controversy among neurologists which substance to use for the initial treatment of the disease.

Discussion

In multiple studies, MAO-B inhibitors, such as selegiline and rasagiline, have shown to provide mild symptomatic effects, delay the need for levodopa, and to reduce the incidence of motor fluctuations. Although their symptomatic efficacy is inferior compared to dopamine agonists and levodopa, MAO-B inhibitors undoubtedly have fewer side effects and are easy to administer. In contrary to their competitors, MAO-B inhibitors may furthermore offer a chance for disease modification, which so far remains a major unmet need in the management of PD and eventually makes them ideal candidates for the early treatment of the disease.

Summary

MAO-B inhibitors may constitute a preferable therapeutic option for early PD, mainly due to their favourable safety profile and their putative neuroprotective capabilities. Since the symptomatic effects of MAO-B inhibitors are comparatively mild, dopamine agonists and levodopa should however be considered for initial treatment in those PD patients, in whom robust and immediate symptomatic relief needs to be prioritized.