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Class Action Lawsuit in Canada Alleging Mirapex Compulsion

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Clearwater, BCMirapex, a dopamine agonist used for the treatment of Parkinson's and Restless Leg Syndrome, has been the subject of numerous Mirapex gambling lawsuits and settlements in the US. In Canada, a number of people are joining a class action lawsuit alleging that sudden and unusual compulsive behaviors are triggered by the drug, which is manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim Ltd. but is also available in generic form as pramipexole.

Two stories aptly illustrate the problem: Gerard Schick, a former Mirapex patient from Midland, Ontario, began gambling compulsively after he started taking Mirapex. Schick is reported to have lost in excess of $100,000 in the process and is serving as the representative plaintiff in the class action lawsuit.

In April, the investigative unit of Canadian network CTV spoke to another Mirapex patient, Raymond Harrison, a former logger from Clearwater in British Columbia and a sufferer of Parkinson's since his mid-30s. As his conditioned worsened, he decided to try what was then a relatively new drug on the market—Mirapex—in 1999.

The reality for Harrison and his family was a destructive and uncharacteristic pattern of compulsive spending, gambling and pornography. His wife Jerrie Wilkie told CTV's 'W5' program that what began as a series of "scratch 'n win" tickets quickly escalated to hours in casinos, online gambling and pay-per-view pornography that cost Harrison $200,000 in losses.

According to W5, Harrison's uncharacteristic behavior continued until he ran out of money, meaning that he couldn't gamble any longer. His wife also managed to block the source of her husband's pornography.

With no outlet, Harrison told CTV that he contemplated suicide.

In 2006 Harrison finally took the drastic step of quitting Mirapex cold turkey. After a year of painful withdrawal symptoms, Harrison was back to his old self, with no echoes of his recent addictions to gambling or pornography. While he suspected that Mirapex might have been the culprit, Harrison did not know for sure until his wife happened upon a magazine article that finally linked Harrison's bizarre behaviors to something more tangible.

Harrison is angry that no one—not his doctor, the manufacturer or the Canadian health authority—revealed to him that there was any risk or potential problem with Mirapex. He is suing Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.

Evidence presented in a 2008 US trial that awarded $8.2 million to a Mirapex patient revealed the manufacturer knew as early as 1995 that Mirapex can trigger compulsive behavior.

Meanwhile, the W5 investigation revealed that Health Canada, the Canadian health regulator, had been alerted to potential problems with Mirapex in 2003. The Mirapex label was updated in Canada in 2004 to confirm the possibility of "increased or decreased libido." However, warnings about pathological gambling did not appear until 2005—and only after Health Canada learned of pending lawsuits.

Boehringer Ingelheim is said to have settled out of court with nearly 300 patients in the US for Mirapex side effects, but with none so far in Canada. The manufacturer issued a statement to the W5 investigative team in April in defense of its product: "Patient health and safety are of the utmost importance to Boehringer Ingelheim and that Pramipexole has a prominent role in the therapy of Parkinson's disease and has brought significant and meaningful symptoms relief to millions of people living with this disease.

"Boehringer Ingelheim has fulfilled its regulatory obligations and has met all of its legal and ethical obligations," the statement went on to say. "Healthcare professionals are advised to inform patients to seek help from their doctor if they, their family, or their care giver notice that their behaviors is unusual."

Yet Harrison gets the last word.

"Thanks a lot, assholes, for not warning me," he said. "They owe me thirteen years of my life."

READ ABOUT MIRAPEX COMPULSIVE GAMBLING LAWSUITS

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READER COMMENTS

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My husband was diagnosed with pd at the age of 24. He lost anylife that was important to him. His family, his friends and medical personnel that COULD have helped. He ended up alone and with only the help of united way. His personality changed 360 degree. He became the total opposite to what he was which was a kind and caring father and husband one who would never resorted to any thing remotely against the law or to harm his family. The police removed him from our home due to the danger. He was gambling and frequenting sex places and unable to remember what he was doing or even why. I knew it was from his prescribed drugs but medical personell would not accept this. and because of his dependence no one wanted to wean him off and re do. He became an animal. . He resorted to street drugs and in the end his early death ...not a candidate to donate organs because of use. We tried many times resorting to even going to the USA to get assistance but their opinion was that he was on too many drugs. He was involved in the DBS surgery Toronto in it's experimental stanges but it did not work because of infection. He was healthy otherwise. I was not aware of this class action suit and my husband had 2 teenage children at the time who lost a father way too early through apparently no fault of his own.

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I lost money, job, got a divorce, turned into an alcoholic on this drug

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