Early initiation of standard drug treatments for Parkinson’s disease do not lead to worse motor scores when compared with later treatment, a new study finds. In fact, early treatment may be linked to small improvements in symptoms, investigators say.

Patients and physicians often tread carefully when timing the start of dopamine replacement treatment such as levodopa therapy, wrote Bastiaan R. Bloem M.D., Ph.D., of Radboud University Medical Center, in The Netherlands. There is ongoing debate about whether these symptom-relieving drugs lead to disease progression or early onset of side effects.

The current study findings, however, are in line with those of earlier clinical trials showing no significant effect of these first-line Parkinson’s treatments, Bloem and colleagues wrote.

Among 302 patients who started treatment earlier, a small improvement was seen in disease severity and progression scores after two years of follow‐up when compared with those who started later. Insignificant differences between the two groups were seen in subsequent years, the researchers reported.

No significant differences existed between early and late treatment initiation for most secondary outcomes, including the presence of motor fluctuations, nonmotor symptoms and measures of daily living capabilities.

The study was published in the journal Movement Disorders.