Medicines do not prevent Parkinson's but they aim to improve your daily functioning. Medicines are usually started when symptoms disrupt your daily life.
Everybody's experience of Parkinson's is different and your healthcare team will work with you to find the best treatments for your particular symptoms. Depending on your symptoms and responses to medicines, you may need to try a combination of medicines, and your medicines may change over time as your symptoms change.
On this page you will find information about:
What are the main medicines for Parkinson's?
There are many different types of medicines for Parkinson's. Most work by topping up or mimicking the effect of dopamine, a chemical in your brain that helps control movement. In Parkinson's, brain cells that produce dopamine stop working properly and are lost slowly over time. Read more about Parkinson's.
(Parkinsons's UK, 2017)
Levodopa is converted into dopamine in your body. It is the first line of treatment medicine.
Note: In early 2022 selegiline tablets will no longer be available in New Zealand. If you are taking selegiline tablets, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
Tips for taking Parkinson’s medicines
Timing is important
It is important to take your Parkinson’s medicines on time, every time. Not taking your medicines at the right time can lead to your symptoms becoming worse, and it can take some time for this to be put right again. For best results, take medicines at the same time each day. If you are going to be changing your routine, such as going on holiday or into hospital, talk to your doctor or pharmacist so you can plan your medicine schedule.
Keep a medicine and symptoms diary
Keeping a diary is a helpful way of monitoring your condition and keeping track of your medicines. A diary can be a useful way of letting your doctor know what problems you’re experiencing, any changes in your condition from day to day or over a period of time, and how well your medicine is controlling your symptoms. It can also help remind you of things you want to discuss during your appointment that you may otherwise forget. You can also use it to record any embarrassing issues that you want help with but find difficult to ask about. Examples of diaries:
Side effects – talk to your doctor or pharmacist
If you get side effects from your Parkinson's medicines, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Common side effects include nausea (feeling sick), light-headedness, leg swelling and sleep problems. Also let them know if you think your medicines are causing confusion, hallucinations or involuntary movements. Some people have an unusual desire to gamble or engage in other obsessive behaviors. Your doctor may adjust the amount of medicine you take or you may be given another type. Do not stop taking your Parkinson’s medicines until you are advised to do so.
Swallowing difficulty can occur at any stage of Parkinson's. This can be a problem when taking your medicines. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have problems swallowing your medicines. They may recommend seeing a speech language therapist. Some medicines should not be broken or crushed. Ask your pharmacist for advice. Read more about difficulty swallowing medicines.
Medicines to avoid
Some medicines can bring on Parkinson’s-like symptoms or react with Parkinson’s medicines and should be avoided unless they’re recommended by a specialist. Always check with your pharmacist before starting any new medicines, including over the counter medicines and herbal supplements.
- The management of Parkinson’s disease: which treatments to start and when? BPAC, NZ, 2014
- Parkinson's disease NZ Formulary