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Why have we failed to achieve neuroprotection in Parkinson's disease?


  • Potential conflict of interest: This article is part of a supplement sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI). C.W.O. has served as a consultant to BI, Novartis, Teva, Merck Serono, and Ceregene. K.K. currently serves as principal investigator for a clinical trial of pramipexole, sponsored by BI. K.K. also receives grant support from Amarin, Medivation, and Neurosearch. K.K. has served as a consultant for Abbott, Antipodean, Biogen Idec, Ceregene, Eisai, FoldRx, Impax, Ipsen, Lilly, Lundbeck, Merck-Serono, Merz, Novartis, Orion, Pfizer, Prestwick, Schering-Plough, Schwarz, Solvay, Teva, UCB Pharma, and Vernalis. A.H.V.S. has received honoraria as a consultant for BI, GlaxoSmithKline, Treva, Lundbeck, Novartis, Orion, and Solvay.


The development of a neuroprotective therapy that slows, stops, or reverses neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD) is the single most important unresolved issue in the management of this disorder. Current therapies provide effective control of symptoms, particularly in the early stages of the disease, but disease progression is associated with the development of “nondopaminergic” features such as postural instability, falling, and dementia that are not adequately controlled with existing medications. There are many promising candidate neuroprotective agents based on pathological and laboratory studies, but to date, it has not been possible to determine that any drug has a disease-modifying effect in PD. Obstacles to the development of a neuroprotective therapy in PD include: (1) uncertainty as to the precise cause of cell death in PD and what to target; (2) the lack of an animal model of PD that precisely reflects the etiopathogenesis of the disease, the pattern of dopaminergic and nondopaminergic pathology, and its chronic, progressive nature; (3) determination of the correct dose to use in clinical trials; and (4) delineation of a clinical end point that is an accurate measure of the underlying disease and is not confounded by potential symptomatic effects of a study intervention. New developments in understanding the cause of the disease, in the development of animal models of PD, and in clinical trial methodology will hopefully hasten the resolution of these problems. Ann Neurol 2008;64 (suppl):S101–S110