Azilect belongs to a class of medications called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Dopamine deficiency, caused by a loss of dopamine-producing cells in certain parts of the brain, may be responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. An enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO) breaks down monoamine chemicals, including dopamine. By inhibiting MAO enzymes, Azilect helps to increase the amount of dopamine that the brain can use, helping to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
There are two types of MAO: type A and B. Although there is some MAO-A in the brain, it is found primarily in the digestive tract. MAO-B is the main form in the brain and is also found in blood platelets. Although Azilect is "selective" for MAO-B, it does inhibit MAO-A to some extent, especially at higher doses. Unfortunately, MAO-A is responsible for breaking down dietary tyramine, an amino acid that affects blood pressure. Any medication that inhibits MAO-A stops the body's ability to break down tyramine and can cause a person's tyramine levels to be too high, which can be extremely dangerous. Because tyramine is found in many foods and beverages, people taking MAOI medications (including Azilect) must follow a strict diet (see Azilect Food Interactions for more information).
Azilect is not approved for use in children. This makes sense, since Parkinson's disease is not likely to occur in children.
On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend Azilect for something other than Parkinson's disease. This is known as an "off-label" use. At this time, there are no universally accepted off-label Azilect uses.