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Study Confirms Compulsive Behaviors With Parkinson’s Drugs

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, April 13, 2009 11:58 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Parkinson's Disease, Ropinirole, Pramipexole, Dopamine Agonists

A study from the Mayo Clinic confirms that one in six taking drugs for the condition will develop compulsive behaviors.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ gambling chips/ author: Jamie Adams


Parkinson’s disease drugs are called dopamine agonists and a new study confirms what many report -  that dopamine agonists can cause compulsive and hypersexual destructive behaviors. 

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed the records of 267 Parkinson’s patients treated in Rochester, between 2004 and 2006.   They conclude that one in six taking pramipexole and ropinirole developed the compulsions.  Decreasing the dosage may decrease the problem. 

"It is crucial for clinicians prescribing dopamine agonists to apprise patients as well as their spouses or partners about this potential side effect. The onset can be insidious and overlooked until life-altering problems develop," Dr. J. Eric Ahlskog, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, said in a clinic news release.

"It also is worth noting that the affected patients were all taking therapeutic doses. Very low doses, such as those used to treat restless legs syndrome, carry much less risk."

Therapeutic doses are what is needed to be minimally beneficial.   Parkinson’s patients taking another drug the standard drug for treatment called carbidopa/levodopa did not develop the compulsive behaviors nor did those taking subtherapeutic doses of dopamine agonists. 

The study is publsished in the April Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Last year, a federal jury agreed that a PD treatment caused compulsive gambling and awarded a retired Milwaukee police officer $8.2 million. He says he lost more than $260,000 over a four year period.  Altogether he was prescribed Mirapex (Pramipexole) to treat Parkinson’s for eight years beginning in 1997.

The litigation is the first in a series of more than 307 consolidated lawsuits taking place in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Another trial is underway.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease for which there is no therapy to slow or reverse the disease.  Some treatments can provide some relief however.  Levodopa continues to be effective and most patients eventually do receive it. Eventually symptoms such as motor fluctuations and dyskinesias, or involuntary movements are difficult to control with medications.  Working to fight depression that can accompany Parkinson’s disease (PD) is also a target of therapy. 

There are five classes of drugs used to treat PD which include Dopaminergic Agents such as Levodopa and Dopamine agonists;  COMT Inhibitors; MAO- Inhibitors;  Anticholinergics; and Amantadine. 

New Research

New studies have found that a natural substance found in the blood, urate, a salt that comes from uric acid, appears to slow the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate muscle movement. In Parkinson’s disease, brain cells that produce dopamine are destroyed. Symptoms worsen as more dopamine-producing brain cells die.

Urate seems to quiet free radicals that injure the dopamine-producing brain cells.

Scientists are testing a possible new theory that vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin” can help ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  The study appears in the journal Archives of Neurology.

It is estimated that 60,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, joining the 1.5 million Americans who currently have Parkinson's disease. Among them is actor Michael J. Fox, who set up a foundation for Parkinson’s Research in November 2006. #

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