BACKGROUND: Whether initial treatment for Parkinson's disease should consist of levodopa, dopamine agonists, or monoamine oxidase type B inhibitors (MAOBI) is uncertain. We aimed to establish which of these three classes of drug, as initial treatment, provides the most effective long-term control of symptoms and best quality of life for people with early Parkinson's disease. METHODS: In this pragmatic, open-label randomised trial, patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease were randomly assigned (by telephone call to a central office; 1:1:1) between levodopa-sparing therapy (dopamine agonists or MAOBI) and levodopa alone. Patients and investigators were not masked to group assignment. Primary outcomes were the mobility dimension on the 39-item patient-rated Parkinson's disease questionnaire (PDQ-39) quality-of-life scale (range 0-100 with six points defined as the minimally important difference) and cost-effectiveness. Analysis was intention to treat. This trial is registered, number ISRCTN69812316. FINDINGS: Between Nov 9, 2000, and Dec 22, 2009, 1620 patients were assigned to study groups (528 to levodopa, 632 to dopamine agonist, 460 to MAOBI). With 3-year median follow-up, PDQ-39 mobility scores averaged 1·8 points (95% CI 0·5-3·0, p=0·005) better in patients randomly assigned to levodopa than those assigned to levodopa-sparing therapy, with no increase or attrition of benefit during 7 years' observation. PDQ-39 mobility scores were 1·4 points (95% CI 0·0-2·9, p=0·05) better in patients allocated MAOBI than in those allocated dopamine agonists. EQ-5D utility scores averaged 0·03 (95% CI 0·01-0·05; p=0·0002) better with levodopa than with levodopa-sparing therapy; rates of dementia (hazard ratio [HR] 0·81, 95% CI 0·61-1·08, p=0·14), admissions to institutions (0·86, 0·63-1·18; p=0·4), and death (0·85, 0·69-1·06, p=0·17) were not significantly different, but the upper CIs precluded any substantial increase with levodopa compared with levodopa-sparing therapy. 179 (28%) of 632 patients allocated dopamine agonists and 104 (23%) of 460 patients allocated MAOBI discontinued allocated treatment because of side-effects compared with 11 (2%) of 528 patients allocated levodopa (p<0·0001). INTERPRETATION: Very small but persistent benefits are shown for patient-rated mobility scores when treatment is initiated with levodopa compared with levodopa-sparing therapy. MAOBI as initial levodopa-sparing therapy was at least as effective as dopamine agonists. FUNDING: UK National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme and UK Department of Health.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1196 - 1205


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Animals, Antiparkinson Agents, Dopamine Agonists, Drug Therapy, Combination, Female, Humans, Levodopa, Male, Middle Aged, Monoamine Oxidase, Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, Parkinson Disease, Treatment Outcome