Jeff Segal, MD, JD, FACS, CEO Medical Justice

Gamble Big and Lose. Then Sue Big Pharma. Then Collect Big Check. No Kidding.

To those who plan to go to Vegas and gamble, here’s how to cut your losses – even win big. The secret: Pramipexole. Stay with me on this.

Pramipaxole, to refresh, is a dopamine agonist used for early stage Parkinson’s disease. It also treats restless legs syndrome. There’s more. It is currently being investigated to treat clinical depression and fibromyalgia. Pramipaxole is sometimes used off label to treat cluster headache and to counteract problems with sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants. Finally, it is currently being investigated for the treatment of clinical depression and fibromyalgia. A veritable cornucopia of treatments.

Back to the hedge against gambling losses.

Gary Charbonneau started taking pramipaxole for Parkinson’s disease in 1997.

In a lawsuit against Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer, the manufacturer and marketer of the drug, he claimed the medication caused or exacerbated a gambling addiction beginning in 2002 that cost him $260,000. Ouch.

The lawsuit charged that despite reports of pramipaxole causing compulsive behavior – compulsive meaning compulsive gambling, shopping, eating, and heightened sexuality – the label was not amended until 2005. A Minnesota court awarded plaintiff Charbonneau $8.3 million – well above his gambling losses. Indeed, this could be construed as a 3,000% return on investment.

William Mandell, a health law attorney, commented on the case:

$7.8 million of the jury verdict against the drug manufacturers was for punitive damages related to the finding that they had misrepresented the facts associated with the risks of taking Mirapex [pramipaxole] as it could cause patients to engage in compulsive behaviors such as gambling.

No doctor was sued in this case for prescribing pramipaxole. But, doctors should not express schadenfreude for the pain experienced by big Pharma.

Mr. Mandell continued:

All physicians who regularly prescribe medications for which there could be significant and detrimental side effects should realize that they could also be named as defendants in such adverse reaction suits.

Perhaps there is a silver lining. Given how many conditions pramipaxole treats, it can’t be too challenging to find one that “torments” your life – then go to Vegas. You fill in the blanks yourself.

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