Levodopa – an exotoxin or a therapeutic drug?

Research paper by E. Melamed, D. Offen, A. Shirvan, I. Ziv

Indexed on: 01 Apr '00Published on: 01 Apr '00Published in: Journal of Neurology


Auto-oxidation of levodopa generates toxic metabolites, such as free radicals, semiquinones and quinones. In vitro, levodopa is a powerful toxin that is lethal to cultures of neurones. This raises the concern that levodopa may also be toxic in vivo, and that chronic treatment with levodopa could induce further damage to nigrostriatal neurones in patients with Parkinson’s disease, accelerating the natural predetermined rate of disease progression. Although a few animal studies have shown that chronic levodopa may be toxic in vivo, most others report that it is not. The few available clinical studies also indicate that the course of Parkinson’s disease is not accelerated by chronic systemic treatment with levodopa.