Objectives– To determine the efficacy and safety of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor entacapone, used as an adjunct to levodopa, in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. Patients and methods– In this parallel group, randomized, double-blind study, 301 PD patients, the majority with motor fluctuations, received entacapone (200 mg) or placebo with each daily dose of standard or controlled-release (CR) levodopa. The 24-week treatment period was followed by 2 weeks of entacapone withdrawal. Efficacy was determined by home diaries (`on' and `off' times), Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and changes in levodopa dosage, and safety by adverse-event inquiry, vital signs, electro cardiography (ECG) and laboratory tests. Results– In the total population, the UPDRS activities of daily living and motor scores were significantly improved (P < 0.05) by entacapone vs placebo. In fluctuating patients, `on' time increased (1.7 h) and `off' time decreased (1.5 h) significantly more with entacapone than with placebo (0.5 and 0.6 h, respectively; P < 0.05), and the daily levodopa dose was reduced by 54 mg with entacapone and increased by 27 mg with placebo (P < 0.05). Entacapone benefit was lost on withdrawal. Entacapone efficacy was comparable between patients using CR and standard levodopa preparations. Increased dyskinesias (entacapone 34%, placebo 26%) and nausea (10 and 5%, respectively), mostly occurring shortly after treatment initiation, were generally managed by reducing the levodopa dose. Diarrhoea (entacapone 8%, placebo 4%) was seldom severe. There were no differences in vital signs, ECG or laboratory results. Conclusion– Entacapone is an effective and safe levodopa extender and enhancer, improving the symptomatic efficacy of levodopa in PD and adding to the patients' benefit.