March 20, 2006

Parkinson’s drug link to gambling probed: newspaper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Medical researchers are
investigating suspicions that drugs prescribed to treat
Parkinson's disease could turn patients into compulsive
gamblers, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration have found a
strong association between pathological gambling and the drugs,
which boost the level of dopamine in the brain, according to
the newspaper.

Dopamine, a chemical naturally produced in the human body,
plays a key role in the way the brain controls movements. A
shortage of dopamine causes Parkinson's disease. But the
chemical is also associated with addictive behaviors such as
drug use and pleasurable experiences such as sex and food.

Researchers, according to the Washington Post, are looking
into the possibility that drugs for treating Parkinson's are
turning "some patients into obsessive pleasure seekers."

But the article also said no firm links have been made
between dopamine enhancers and compulsive gambling.

Some patients have filed lawsuits against drug
manufacturers, citing lost jobs and gambling problems.

Pharmaceutical firms such as Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim
have toughened warning labels on drugs as the company
investigates reports, according to the newspaper.

But Eli Lilly and Co., noting the lack of scientific
consensus, raised the possibility that gambling problems in
Parkinson's patients could be related to more legalized
gambling, the newspaper reported.