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ABSTRACT: Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder that can cause significant disability and decreased quality of life. The cardinal physical signs of the disease are distal resting tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and asymmetric onset. Levodopa is the primary treatment for Parkinson's disease; however, its long-term use is limited by motor complications and drug-induced dyskinesia. Dopamine agonists are options for initial treatment and have been shown to delay the onset of motor complications. However, dopamine agonists are inferior to levodopa in controlling motor symptoms. After levodopa-related motor complications develop in advanced Parkinson's disease, it is beneficial to initiate adjuvant therapy with dopamine agonists, catechol O-methyltransferase inhibitors, or monoamine oxidase-B inhibitors. Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus has been shown to ameliorate symptoms in patients with advanced disease. Depression, dementia, and psychosis are common psychiatric problems associated with Parkinson's disease. Psychosis is usually drug induced and can be managed initially by reducing antiparkinsonian medications. The judicious use of psychoactive agents may be necessary. Consultation with a subspecialist is often required.
New Drugs for Alzheimer's Disease - Article
ABSTRACT: Alzheimer's disease is characterized by degeneration of various structures in the brain, with development of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Deficiencies of acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters also occur. Pharmacologic treatment of the disease generally seeks to correct the histopathology, the biochemical derangements or their effects. The only drugs labeled to date for the treatment of cognitive symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease are two cholinesterase inhibitors that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in the synapse. Both medications are associated with modest improvements in cognitive function. However, all benefit is lost when these drugs are discontinued; the disease then progresses to the level seen in placebo-treated patients. Tacrine, the first cholinesterase inhibitor to be so labeled, must be taken four times daily and is associated with hepatic toxicity. Donepezil is taken once daily. Side effects of the cholinesterase inhibitors include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which tend to subside after the titration period. Other drugs that have shown some promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease are vitamin E, estrogen, selegiline and a mixture of ergoloid mesylates. Anti-inflammatory drugs and nicotine are also being studied for their effects as neuroprotectors or neurotransmitter enhancers. The caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease may see little effect from these or other investigational agents, but nursing home placement may be delayed.
ABSTRACT: Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the development of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are associated with neuronal destruction, particularly in cholinergic neurons. Drugs that inhibit the degradation of acetylcholine within synapses are the mainstay of therapy. Donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine are safe but have potentially troublesome cholinergic side effects, including nausea, anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. These adverse reactions are often self-limited and can be minimized by slow drug titration. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors appear to be effective, but the magnitude of benefit may be greater in clinical trials than in practice. The drugs clearly improve cognition, but evidence is less robust for benefits in delaying nursing home placement and improving functional ability and behaviors. Benefit for vitamin E or selegiline has been suggested, but supporting evidence is not strong. Most guidelines for monitoring drug therapy in patients with Alzheimer's disease recommend periodic measurements of cognition and functional ability. The guidelines generally advise discontinuing therapy with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors when dementia becomes severe.