Research Yields More Options for Parkinson’s Patients

A newly FDA-approved medication reflects how ongoing research continues to improve the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. 

For the 1 million Americans with this progressive and life-altering disease, a new drug called opicapone could help delay “off” periods.  These are times in the day when patients’ regular medication fails to suppress symptoms like tremor, rigidity and anxiety.  

Off periods typically begin five-to-10 years after patients begin first-line Parkinson’s medication, called levodopa.  The drug may begin not taking effect as quickly as usual, wearing off before the next dose is due, or just suddenly failing to control symptoms.  About 90% of Parkinson’s patients are affected by off periods, subjecting them to breakthrough symptoms that undermine their independence. 

Opicapone is an adjunct medication to extend the effectiveness of patients’ first-line medication.  It’s the latest treatment resulting from extensive research and development efforts to address off periods.  In use in Europe since 2016, opicapone is a once-a-day oral medication. Data shows that it can significantly extend “on” time without increasing the uncontrolled, involuntary movements that can occur with long-term use of first-line medication.  

In addition to opicapone, which delays the onset of off periods, several treatment strategies and other medications exist to help patients endure off periods. 

About Parkinson’s Disease & Treatment

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that appears when nerve cell damage in the brain causes dopamine levels to drop. Symptoms, which can be severe, may include tremor, bradykinesia, limb rigidity, and gait and balance problems. Although Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, its complications can be. 

Decades of research have vastly improved understanding of Parkinson’s. While there is no cure, medical innovation continues to generate treatments that control its impact.  The growing cadre of treatment options allows health care providers to continue tailoring effective, patient-centered Parkinson’s care – offering patients more years and better quality of life to enjoy with family and friends. 


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