Drugs & Aging

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 55–74 | Cite as

Depression in Parkinson’s Disease

Pharmacological Characteristics and Treatment
  • Tiffany Tom
  • Jeffrey L. Cummings
Review Article Disease Management


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurological illness and various degrees of depression frequently complicate its course. Risk factors for developing depression with PD include right-sided hemiparkinsonism, akinesia, increased severity of disability, anxiety and psychosis. Onset of parkinsonism at a younger age, female gender and the use of levodopa are arguable risk factors. Depression may be difficult to diagnose in patients with PD because the signs of the 2 disorders overlap. In addition, patients with atypical PD more commonly have depression than patients with classical PD presentations.

Antidepressant response to antiparkinsonian treatment has been limited. Enhancement of catecholamine levels in the CNS by selegiline (deprenyl), a monoamine oxidase (MAO) type B inhibitor, has shown potential antidepressant as well as neuroprotective effects. Other MAO inhibitors have shown antidepressant efficacy in animal models but have not been well tolerated by patients with PD. A catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor combined with an MAO inhibitor might synergistically maximise the levels of catecholamines in the CNS.

Antidepressant medications used in patients without PD include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but only TCAs have been carefully studied for their antidepressant effects in PD. Electroconvulsive therapy has proven efficacy as antidepressant therapy in patients with PD, and transcranial magnetic stimulation has provided temporary relief of depression under experimental conditions.

Adverse effects of polypharmacy in the attempted treatment of depression in patients with PD are common in the elderly. A ‘serotonin syndrome’ has occurred frequently enough to preclude the coadministration of selegiline with SSRIs or TCAs, and multiple interactions between antiparkinsonian and antidepressant medications further complicate treatment strategies in patients with PD.

An algorithmic approach to the pharmacological treatment of depression is described in this article.


Adis International Limited Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Depressed Patient Mirtazapine Selegiline 
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© Adis International Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiffany Tom
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jeffrey L. Cummings
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUCLA School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Neuropsychiatry and Neurobehavior Unit, Psychiatry ServiceWest Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical CenterLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral SciencesUCLA School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA

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