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Australian Lawsuits Blame Parkinson's Disease Drugs for Gambling, Porn Addictions

Jun 7, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Two dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson’s disease are the subject of more than 100 Australian lawsuits. Plaintiffs in the suits claim that Pfizer Australia’s Cabaser (cabergoline, sold as Dostinex in the U.S.) and Aspen Pharmacare’s Permax (pergolide) caused gambling and pornography addictions.

Several studies have found evidence of a link between dopa agonists and compulsive behaviors. In the U.S., similar claims have been filed against the maker of a dopamine agonist called Mirapex. Hundreds of these lawsuits from around the country have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court in Minnesota. In July 2008, a jury awarded $8.2 million in the litigation’s first bellwether trial to a man who became a compulsive gambler after using Mirapex.

Plaintiffs in the Australian lawsuits claim they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and suffered family breakdowns due to compulsive behaviors they developed after taking the dopamine agonists. The lawsuits allege Pfizer and Aspen Pharmacare did not properly research the possible side effects of the drugs, failed to provide proper warning about the increased risks of compulsive disorders, and did not withdraw the drug from sale after they became aware of the increased risks.

In the U.S., Cabaser is sold as under the name Dostinex. It is only approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) at a lower dose for the treatment of hyperprolactinemic disorders — conditions in which there are elevated levels of prolactin in the blood. Dostinex is not approved in the U.S. for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

In 2007, companies that manufactured and distributed pergolide, including Permax, in the U.S. agreed to withdraw the drug from the market after two studies showed that patients with Parkinson’s disease who were treated with pergolide had an increased chance of serious damage to their heart valves when compared to patients who did not receive the drug. Pergolide, including Permax, is no longer available for sale in the U.S.


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