Clinical trials conducted at the institute concluded that a number of people developed gambling problems serious enough to get them into financial crises, compared with a placebo group that had no link whatsoever with gambling.
None of the patients taking Mirapex had a previous history of gambling. When their medications were switched or their doses lowered, most were able to control their gambling behavior.
Many people are too embarrassed to talk about their gambling addictions. Furthermore, they are unaware that a drug can have such side effects.
Unfortunately, Evelyn (not her real name) and her husband Frank were not aware of any risks. But increasingly she suspected that Mirapex was linked to her husband's gambling obsession. "My husband took Mirapex for nine years and his gambling persisted until his death in 2004," she says.
Although he was physically disabled and severely affected by Parkinson's disease, Frank continued to have an obsession with gambling. "We live approximately one hour away from Atlantic City and this was the only place he was willing to leave home for, he rarely went out for anything other than doctor's visits," says Evelyn.
Frank had suffered from Parkinson's Disease for about 15 years and he had taken Mirapex for the last seven years of his life. "He wasn't a gambler before taking the drug, but he was obsessed with going to Atlantic City and when we were there he wanted to take money out of the bank," says Evelyn.
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"During his final hospitalization he was convinced that he was in a casino and repeatedly demanded to be taken to the gaming floor! This went on until the week before his death," she says.
Mirapex is also known under the brand name Pramipexole. After studying more than 1,800 patients over a year, Dr. Mark Stacy at the Barrow Neurological Institute said that "it may be appropriate for doctors to inform patients of this potential risk, particularly in their patients taking relatively high dosages of a dopamine agonist [such as Mirapex], and with a documented history of depression or anxiety disorder."