Parkinson's drug may cause abnormal behavior

Parkinson's drug may cause abnormal behavior

Mirapex is a prescription drug used to combat symptoms of Parkinson's disease such as tremors, slow movement and rigidity. However, Dr. Laura Marsh, a psychiatrist and director of the Mental Health Care Line at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Austin, Texas, says you may need to watch out for abnormal and alarming behavior.

The makers of Mirapex caution the medicine may cause pathological gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive shopping and binge eating.

"Physicians should monitor patients for signs of impulse control disorders," says Lara Crissey, spokeswoman with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals - the makers of Mirapex.

Mirapex is a brand name for the drug pramipexole, a dopamine agonist, that mimics the effects of dopamine in the brain.

"The exact cause [for the compulsive behavior] isn't known," says Marsh, who treats patients with Parkinson's. "There's evidence dopamine agonists play a role in changes in reward pathways in the brain." Marsh says changes in reward pathways - which are responsible for driving feelings of motivation, reward and behavior - manifest differently in each patient.

Marsh adds compulsive behaviors can occur with any Parkinson's treatment, but says there's a higher rate of instances, an estimated 15 percent, when pramipexole is used.

"It can be tricky to notice because the patient may attempt to conceal the behavior," Marsh says. "Once it's apparent, you should contact the clinician who prescribed the medication immediately."

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