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Long-term Parkinson's treatment sheds bad rep

Taking levodopa early in the disease doesn’t increase side effects

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1:17pm, July 25, 2014

Many doctors delay prescribing an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease out of fear that the drug will cause side effects if given too early. That fear may be unfounded, a new study suggests.

Since the 1960s, doctors have prescribed levodopa to ease the slow movements, tremors and rigid muscles that come with Parkinson’s. But this relief appears to come at a price. Earlier studies indicated that prolonged levodopa use at high doses caused a different set of problems, such as uncontrollable movements. 

By comparing people with Parkinson’s in Ghana, where levodopa is hard to come by, with patients from Italy, where the drug is routinely used, scientists have now found that side effects are no worse in people who start levodopa early. The results appear July 17 in Brain.

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