In mid-2001, Joe Neglia went on a cruise to Alaska and that trip marked the beginning of his downward spiral into hell. The ship had a gambling casino on board and according to Joe, he was "instantly and savagely hooked on the slots."
A major problem arose when he came back ashore. "When I returned from the cruise I began hitting the local casinos," he recalls, "there were three within 25 minutes from my home."
"I hit them every day," he said, "frequently all day for two full years."
The daily gambling binges continued for two full years because that's how long it took for Joe to find out that, Mirapex, the drug he had been taking for Parkinson's disease, had turned him into a compulsive gambler.
Jim Sweet recounts a similar version of basically the same tragic tale. He began taking Mirapex in December of 1998.
"A couple of months later I found myself on my computer a lot," he says, "bidding in auctions on stuff that I didn't need."
Next Jim then turned to gambling online, "running up thousands of dollars in credit card debt."
Like Joe Neglia, Jim never had a gambling problem before taking Mirapex.
As the dosage of the drug was increased, Jim's compulsive behavior increased. Over time, he reveals, "the gambling addiction escalated to include casinos, race track betting, lottery, and more online betting."
"I went through a living hell for over three years while on Mirapex, with a drug induced gambling addiction," he recalls.
For those unfamiliar with this controversy, as remarkable as it may seem, recent studies have shown that Mirapex is indeed the culprit here. On February 15, 2006, United Press International, reported: "Parkinson's disease patients who take anti-tremor drugs are at greater risk of becoming pathological gamblers," based on a study by Duke University and three FDA scientists. The study is discussed in the February 2006, Archives of Neurology.
The patients were drawn from an FDA database of more than 2.5 million adverse drug reports dating back to 1968. The analysis of adverse effects found that the strongest association of gambling was with Mirapex. Five other anti-tremor drugs also showed elevated risks but Mirapex accounted for 58% of the reports.
The study is the second in less than a year to link Mirapex to compulsive gambling and the latest findings are consistent with earlier research conducted over the past several years.
In July 2005, a study conducted at the Mayo Clinic, was published in the Archives of Neurology, and identified 11 Parkinson's patients who developed a compulsive gambling problem while taking Mirapex or similar drugs between 2002 and 2004. Since the study was published, 14 additional patients have been identified with the problem, said Mayo psychiatrist, Dr M Leann Dodd, the lead author of the study.
Although a few patients took similar drugs, Dr Dodd said most of the gamblers were on Mirapex. They included a 68-year-old patient who gambled at casinos and lost more than $200,000 over 6 months, a patient who lost more than $60,000, and a 41-year-old computer programmer who took up gambling on the internet, and lost about $5,000 in a few months. All of the patients stopped gambling within a short time after treatment with the drug was discontinued.