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Keywords:

  • Parkinson's disease;
  • Tolcapone;
  • COMT inhibitors;
  • Early therapy;
  • Selegiline

Abstract

Tolcapone is a potent, reversible catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor with both peripheral and central activity. It has been demonstrated to improve motor function and allow levodopa dose reductions in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients who are experiencing either a stable response or motor fluctuations while on levodopa/dopa decarboxylase inhibitor therapy. Because striatal dopamine is metabolized by COMT and monoamine oxidase (MAO), central COMT inhibition alone or in combination with MAO inhibition might provide symptomatic benefit for patients not receiving levodopa. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate the tolerability, safety, and efficacy of tolcapone alone and in combination with oral selegiline in early untreated PD patients. Patients were randomized to receive 200 mg tolcapone three times a day or placebo for the 8 weeks of the study. Open-label oral selegiline (5 mg in the morning and midday) was administered to all patients during the second 4 weeks of the study. There was no difference between treatment groups according to the investigator's assessment of tolerability at week 4. Ninety-five percent of tolcapone-treated patients and 98% of placebo-treated patients experienced excellent or good tolerability during the first 4 weeks (95% confidence interval [CI]: −10.3, 5.7; p = 0.57). A decrease in tolerability occurred in the tolcapone group during the second 4 weeks of the study following the addition of selegiline. The most commonly reported side effects were diarrhea (31% tolcapone, 7% placebo), nausea (21% tolcapone, 2% placebo), urine discoloration (12% tolcapone, 0% placebo), dizziness (12% tolcapone, 5% placebo), headaches (12% tolcapone, 10% placebo), and abdominal pain (10% tolcapone, 5% placebo). We did not identify symptomatic benefit associated with tolcapone alone or in combination with oral selegiline in this group of otherwise untreated PD patients.