BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT
July 12, 2005: Patients being treated for Parkinson's Disease with dopamine agonists have developed a curious problem - some of them have taken to compulsive gambling, alcoholism
and obsessive interest in sex as side-effects. The rare side-effects were noticed in a study conducted by Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US.
Some of the patients developed these behavioural problems within six months of starting the dopamine agonists treatment, puzzling the
researchers. The answer is now open, set to come out in the research journal archives of Neurology in September.
Parkinson's Disease is a degeneration of neurons in the brain, the building blocks of communication system in the brain. It is treated by dopamine, which efficiently mimics the traits of neurochemicals in the brain. However, dopamine agonists have also been found to have
another effect on the bran they also act as catalysts on the reward system in brain areas, and the result may not also be agreeable. Increased
interest in gambling is seen as one of the side-effects of the use of the dopamine drug, which, used properly, is a boon for those
suffering from Parkinson's Disease.
In its ideal use, the dopamine agonist drugs help maintain the body's balance and movement, which are to some effect impaired by Parkinson's Disease.
Despite the side-effects, researchers at Mayo Clinic who conducted the study stand by the drug, due to its enormous utility.
Co-author of the study M Leann Dodd says: "I'd want patients to be very forthcoming with their doctors about their gambling. If you recognize this association early, you can possibly prevent financial ruin or destruction of relationships."
Besides, the good news is that only a small percentage of the patients treated by dopamine
agonists display these symptoms. The behavioural change is completely reversed once the treatment stops. There is no reason to stop the Parkinson's Disease therapy because of this rare side-effect, say researchers.