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Man Sues Claiming Mirapex Caused Compulsive Gambling

Jul 10, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Randolph Simens, a 55-year-old former and successful Wall Street banker said he has lost millions of dollars due to a compulsive gambling habit prompted and caused by Mirapex, a popular drug used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless leg syndrome.  Simens is suing all the companies involved with the drug for his losses—which total $3 million—including German drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, and Pharmacia & Upjohn.

Simens’ lawsuit alleges that Mirapex made him into a "pathological" gambler and that his addiction "ruined me," the New York Daily News quotes.  "I became like a robot."  The lawsuit was filed in New York State Court on Tuesday and accuses the privately held drug maker of breach of warranty, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation.  Simens said he took Mirapex, from 2002 to 2007 following his diagnoses with Parkinson's disease and also after suffering hand tremors.  "It put a little tickle in me and then snowballed within a month," said Simens, who filed the lawsuit on his own because he said he cannot afford a lawyer.  The defendants "had a duty to provide adequate warnings and instruction for Mirapex, to use reasonable care to design a product that is not reasonably dangerous to users, and to adequately test their product," the lawsuit said.

Simens is not the first gambling addict to sue Boehringer Ingelheim; however, Boehringer Ingelheim adamantly denies any scientific evidence proving a link between Mirapex and gambling addictions.  A spokesperson for Pfizer said the company had not marketed Mirapex since 2005 when medical studies first linked Mirapex to compulsive behaviors, including compulsive gambling.  Pfizer said it "acted reasonably and appropriately during the entire time period it was involved with Mirapex."  Mirapex is still sold in the United States market and is also prescribed for restless leg syndrome.  Boehringer Ingelheim updated Mirapex's label in 2005 to include reports of "compulsive behavior" among Mirapex patients.

Simens said he was a recreational gambler before being prescribed Mirapex, but that he quickly became reckless, spending entire nights gambling over the Internet and traveling to casinos.  "It's stupidity. I just couldn't stop," he said.  When he read an article that suggested a link between Mirapex and compulsive behaviors, including gambling, he said he felt a wave of relief.  Simens said he has joined a gambler's support group and, within five weeks of stopping Mirapex, stopped gambling.

The lawsuit claims Boehringer Ingelheim should have done more to warn patients of the potential for compulsive gambling.   According to the suit, Simens—a father of two—began taking Mirapex in 2002 but didn't learn about the label change until 2006, when he read about a film director who blamed a gambling binge on Mirapex.  At that point he claims to have been already out of control, running through his children’s bank accounts.

A recent Canadian and American study found that people taking dopamine agonist drugs—Mirapex is in this class of drugs—which help control movement problems, were two-to-three times more likely to have at least one of four common impulse control disorders:  Pathological gambling, compulsive buying, compulsive sexual behavior, and binge eating.

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