Changes in quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease left untreated at diagnosis

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The issue of whether to adopt a “wait and watch” strategy or to initiate drug therapy soon after diagnosis in Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been the subject of some debate. A recent observational study supported early treatment by demonstrating deterioration in self-reported health status in those left untreated, but not those who received therapy. We aimed to replicate this observation.


People with PD from a prospective incidence study underwent follow-up with yearly clinical assessment of parkinsonian impairment (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS)) and self-reported health status (Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire (PDQ-39)). Two year outcomes were compared with those who started treatment within 1 year of diagnosis and those left untreated.


42 patients with PD were followed-up for 2 years, of whom 26 started treatment during the first year and 16 remained untreated. Those receiving treatment had significantly higher UPDRS and PDQ-39 scores at baseline. There was no significant deterioration in PDQ-39 score in either group (median change untreated 0.8 vs treated 4.0; p = 0.47), despite a significant difference in the change in motor UPDRS scores (untreated 6.0 vs treated −6.0; p = 0.03).


Given the lack of significant deterioration in the PDQ-39 in untreated patients, we believe a “wait and watch” strategy for the treatment of newly diagnosed PD remains a credible approach unless randomised trials prove otherwise.

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