Selegiline drug does not increase Parkinson's death rate

December 25, 2000

ST. PAUL, MN - Researchers have debated for years whether the drug selegiline increases the risk of death for Parkinson's patients even though others have suggested that the drug may slow the progression of the disease. A new study shows that there is no increased death rate for patients who use the drug in combination with levodopa, the most common drug for Parkinson's. The study is published in the December 26 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"This is exciting news because this drug is the first that showed even the possibility of slowing the course of this disease, not just treating its symptoms," said neurologist William Langston, MD, of The Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, Calif., who co-authored an accompanying editorial on the study. "But when a study came out several years ago reporting that it raised the death rate, near-panic ensued. Even though there were criticisms of that study and other studies failed to confirm the original results, there was a chilling effect on the use of selegiline. This study should dispel any remaining doubts."

The study examined people newly diagnosed and receiving drugs for Parkinson's disease in the Tayside region of Scotland from 1989 to 1995. Those 97 cases were compared to 902 people from the community who did not have Parkinson's disease. The study looked at the death rates for people taking levodopa alone, selegiline alone, or selegiline in addition to other antiparkinsonian drugs, and compared the death rates in each of these groups with people who did not have Parkinson's disease.

Overall, those with Parkinson's were twice as likely to die during the study period than their healthy counterparts. But those patients who were taking selegiline in combination with levodopa were no more likely to die during the study than the people without Parkinson's. People taking levodopa alone had the highest death rate among the three treatment groups, according to study author Peter Donnan, PhD, of the University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland.

Selegiline has been used as a treatment for Parkinson's for nearly 25 years, but excitement about the drug peaked in the mid-1980s when research suggested that it may have neuroprotective effects, thereby slowing the effects of the disease on the brain. But a later study raised doubts about that theory.

"The debate has been whether selegiline actually affects the progression of the disease or whether it just affects the symptoms," Langston said. "While proving that selegiline -- or any anti-parkinsonian drug -- is neuroprotective remains beyond our technical grasp, this study shows us that at the very least treating patients with selegiline and levodopa is not a bad thing, and in fact may be a very good thing."
For more information contact: Kathy Stone (651) 695-2763 or

A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 17,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its Web site at For online neurological health and wellness information, visit NeuroVista at

American Academy of Neurology

Related Neurology Articles from Brightsurf:

Lancet Neurology publishes results of AFFiRiS' Phase 1 trial with PD01A in Parkinson's
AFFiRiS AG, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing novel disease-modifying specific active immunotherapies (SAITs), today announced that detailed results of the phase 1 clinical program with its lead candidate PD01 in early Parkinson's disease (PD) patients were published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Neurology

Telemedicine effective for monitoring patients in large pediatric neurology network
As the COVID-19 pandemic sent entire communities into lockdown, doctors quickly adopted telehealth strategies without knowing whether they would be effective or feasible.

The Lancet Neurology: Discovery could speed diagnosis and treatment of children with life-threatening neurological diseases
A group of life-threatening neurological conditions affecting children have been linked to an antibody which points to potential treatment, according to an observational multicentre study involving 535 children with central nervous system (CNS) demyelinating disorders and encephalitis, published in The Lancet Neurology journal.

Meaningful change in culture urged to save neurology, reduce gender gap
UC Davis School of Medicine dean, NINDS deputy director lead national charge to improve conditions for women in neurology.

BrainStorm Cell Tx publishes NurOwn ALS Phase 2 randomized trial data in neurology
Results from Brainstorm Cell Therapeutic's NurOwn randomized Phase 2 clinical trial were published in Neurology.

The Lancet Neurology: Pioneering study suggests that an exoskeleton for tetraplegia could be feasible
A whole-body exoskeleton, operated by recording and decoding brain signals, has helped a tetraplegic patient to move all four of his paralysed limbs, according to results of a 2-year trial published in The Lancet Neurology journal.

The Lancet Neurology: Frailty could make people more susceptible to dementia
New research published in The Lancet Neurology journal suggests that frailty makes older adults more susceptible to Alzheimer's dementia, and moderates the effects of dementia-related brain changes on dementia symptoms.

The Lancet Neurology: Cannabis-based drug in combination with other anti-spasticity
Oral spray containing two compounds derived from the cannabis plant reduced spasticity compared with placebo in patients already taking anti-spasticity drugs.

New neurology studies a 'wakeup call' for global health
Neurology experts from around the world will convene Nov. 27 in New Zealand for a Global Brain Summit examining what one calls 'the greatest challenge of societies in the 21st century.' Among the neurological disorders to be discussed at the Summit are stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and migraine and other headaches.

The Lancet Neurology: Daily and weekly cycles of epileptic seizures more common than previously thought
Understanding the pattern of seizures, and how they are linked to circadian rhythms, could be important in improving management of epilepsy.

Read More: Neurology News and Neurology Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to