The drug selegiline, thought to be neuroprotective, has been used to treat Parkinson's disease for the past 25 years, but a report a few years ago suggested that the drug could accelerate death in patients taking it. A new study from Scotland, published in the 26 December issue of Neurology, reports no increased death rate in patients who use selegiline in combination with levodopa. In the study, 97 patients who were diagnosed and received the drugs from 1989 to 1995 were compared to 902 people from the community who did not have Parkinson's. 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, University of Dundee. "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 of The Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, California, who coauthored an accompanying editorial on the study. "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."—Hakon Heimer
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- Donnan PT, Steinke DT, Stubbings C, Davey PG, MacDonald TM. Selegiline and mortality in subjects with Parkinson's disease: a longitudinal community study. Neurology. 2000 Dec 26;55(12):1785-9. PubMed.