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Mirapex (Pramipexole) Side Effects: Gambling and Compulsive Shopping

Could you ever imagine a medicine that could turn you into a gambler, a compulsive shopper or someone obsessed with sex? Read on to learn about such drugs.

Americans believe passionately in free will. Dictionary.com offers this definition:

1. free and independent choice; voluntary decision:
You took on the responsibility of your own free will.

2. Philosophy. the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.”

It is inconceivable to most people that a person could do something against her will. The idea that a medication could make someone behave very badly seems preposterous. And yet Mirapex (pramipexole) has been linked to some very bad behaviors.

One Reader Shares a Tale of Woe and Intrigue:

Q. I have had restless legs syndrome (RLS) for as long as I can remember. I was given Mirapex (pramipexole) in 2010 and the doctor maximized the dose in 2011.

I NEVER gambled or shopped excessively in my life before starting this medication. I have since gambled away my entire savings, lost my marriage, lied about going to work, binge shopped and hid things, which ultimately ruined the life I worked hard to build. I hurt a lot of people with this behavior but it was all I could think of doing.

When I learned about these side effects, I went to my doctor and asked to be taken off the medicine. Can you believe that he actually told me he didn’t know about these side effects? It has taken a lot in the last four years to try to rebuild my life, forgive myself and control behaviors that I learned over those long horrible years.

My ex-husband could never accept that Mirapex could cause compulsive problems, even though he knew me before and during this horrible episode. I now take carbidopa/levodopa without any problem.

Mirapex (Pramipexole) and Bad Behavior:

A. Many people are shocked to learn that some medications have been linked to compulsive behavior such as gambling, binge drinking, shopping or even hypersexuality. Such behaviors are associated with the antipsychotic drug aripiprazole (Abilify) and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease and RLS, Mirapex (pramipexole), Requip (ropinirole) and Neupro (rotigotine).

Scrambled Neurotransmitters and Behavior:

These drugs affect the brain chemical dopamine. Researchers writing in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine (Dec. 2014) note:

“The development of unusual but severe impulse control disorders has been reported for dopamine receptor agonist drugs used to treat Parkinson disease, restless leg syndrome, and hyperprolactinemia. The events typically involve behaviors such as pathological gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive shopping, and, less frequently, binge eating and punding (the compulsive fascination with and performance of repetitive mechanical tasks). They can have catastrophic effects on jobs, marriages, and family finances. Reports have indicated high prevalence rates, on the order of 6% to 24%.”

The authors go on to say that once the dopamine agonist is stopped the bad behavior usually goes away. If the medicine is restarted, the problem reappears. In their study they report:

“Our findings confirm and extend the evidence that dopamine receptor agonist drugs are associated with serious impulse control disorders; the associations were significant, the magnitude of the effects was large, and the effects were seen for all 6 dopamine receptor agonist drugs. It is unlikely that target events such as pathological gambling or hypersexuality were mistaken for a symptom of the underlying diseases such as restless leg syndrome.”

The six drugs they were referring to include pramipexole, ropinirole, cabergoline, bromocriptine, rotigotine and apomorphine. The investigators also noted that:

“A signal was also seen for aripiprazole [Abilify], an antipsychotic classified as a partial agonist of the D3 [dopamine] receptor.”

They call for boxed warnings on the prescribing information and vigilant monitoring of patients taking such medications.

Mirapex (pramipexole) Side Effects:

The FDA requires the manufacturer of Mirapex (pramipexole) to include the following language in the official prescribing information:

“Falling Asleep During Activities of Daily Living and Somnolence”

“Patients treated with pramipexole have reported falling asleep while engaged in activities of daily living, including the operation of motor vehicles which sometimes resulted in accidents. Although many of these patients reported somnolence while on pramipexole tablets, some perceived that they had no warning signs (sleep attack) such as excessive drowsiness, and believed that they were alert immediately prior to the event. Some of these events had been reported as late as one year after the initiation of treatment.”

“Impulse Control/Compulsive Behaviors”

“Case reports and the results of a cross-sectional study suggest that patients can experience intense urges to gamble, increased sexual urges, intense urges to spend money uncontrollably, binge eating, and/or other intense urges and the inability to control these urges while taking one or more of the medications, including MIRAPEX, that increase central dopaminergic tone and that are generally used for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In some cases, although not all, these urges were reported to have stopped when the dose was reduced or the medication was discontinued. Because patients may not recognize these behaviors as abnormal it is important for prescribers to specifically ask patients or their caregivers about the development of new or increased gambling urges, sexual urges, uncontrolled spending or other urges while being treated with MIRAPEX.”

Other Mirapex (pramipexole) Side Effects:

  • Low blood pressure, dizziness or faintness when standing
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Digestive upset, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Faulty memory, confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping, unusual dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle twitching
  • Changes in vision
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Skin rashes
  • Difficulty swallowing, stomach pain, weight loss
  • Influenza-like symptoms, cough
  • Back pain
  • Sudden sleep attacks without warning

Another Story of Compulsive Behavior:

This is not the first time we have heard from readers who have lost control of their behavior. If you are still skeptical, here is a link worth clicking:

Drug for Restless Legs May Trigger Compulsive Gambling or Sexual Behavior

An Australian Lawsuit:

The newsletter FiercePharma keeps people informed about “the latest news, analysis and data on drugs and the companies that make them.” On May 8, 2015 it was reported by this organization that:

“Pfizer settles lawsuits tying sex and gambling addictions to dopamine meds”

“Pfizer ($PFE) is settling class-action litigation brought by patients who claimed the drugmaker did not adequately warn them of possible side effects of drugs they were taking to treat their Parkinson’s disease or restless leg syndrome. While this kind of litigation is routine, the side effects were not. Instead patients said the drugs created addictions they didn’t previously have, causing them to gamble away their life savings, or become obsessed with shopping or sex.

The confidential settlement with 172 patients, said to be for millions of dollars, was approved by a judge in federal court in Australia, the Financial Review reports, although payments were delayed until they are assessed by an independent review. Pfizer had agreed to the settlement late last year, ahead of a trial of the cases brought by people who took Pfizer’s Cabaser and Dostinex [cabergoline] between 1996 and 2010 to treat tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease or RLS.”

What Do You Think?

Do you believe in free will? Could you imagine a drug making you do something totally out of character like gamble or binge eat? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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