Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) – an exasperating neurological condition that keeps hundreds of thousands of victims from getting a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are medications that can control RLS. Unfortunately, like many of today’s top medications, they can come with some pretty severe side effects. In the case of one drug, known as Pramipexole, it could actually lead to compulsive gambling.
That’s the story that was submitted to the Supreme Court recently when one woman from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast filed a lawsuit against her general practitioner for continuing to prescribe her the drug, in increasing doses, despite her development of a nasty gambling habit.
Margaret Rimmer consulted her neurologist in 2008, who diagnosed her with RLS. Her GP, Dr. Zoltan Bourne, followed up on the diagnosis by prescribing her Sifrol, a form of pramipexole. According to the court filing, she was given an alleged maximum recommended dosage of 750 micrograms in an immediate release form.
Note: According to drugs.com, the recommended starting dosage of Sifrol for RLS is 0.088 milligrams (88 micrograms) in immediate-release form. The recommended maximum dosage is 540 micrograms, immediate-release. (Prolonged-release is not recommended for RLS).
There are a few known side effects that come with taking pramipexole, a dopamine agonist that is generally prescribed for neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease and RLS. Nausea is the most common seen in RLS patients, but many are also said to experience compulsive behavior, such as an overwhelming desire to gamble.
According to Ms. Rimmer, that’s exactly what happened to her, and she’s alleging that Dr. Bourne not only failed to address the problem, but actually burgeoned its existence.
The claim alleges that Ms. Rimmer consulted another neurologist in 2012 who asked if she were experiencing any impulse control disorders, such as hyper sexuality or compulsive gambling. She said that she had never been a gambler before, but that since taking the drug, she had recently begun playing the pokies.
The neurologist advised her to consult her GP about it, and allegedly sent a letter to Dr. Bourne saying, “She said she has been losing money at the pokies recently and I have warned her that this could be a complication of the Sifrol and that she should avoid the pokies, and if that can’t be done, avoid the Sifrol.”
Ms. Rimmer said she saw Dr. Bourne a few days later and told him she had taken steps to self-exclude herself from the poker machines at Maleny Hotel, where she had spent time gambling. But that’s when she alleges things took a turn for the worse, claiming that Dr. Bourne never addressed the issued, and instead increased her daily dosage of Sifrol.
According to filing documents, Ms. Rimmer saw Dr. Bourne a total of 14 times between November 2012 and December 2014. Among those visits, she says her dosage was upped to a single 750 microgram prolonged-release tablet in May 2013, then doubled to 1,500 micrograms in September 2013. Three months later, Ms. Rimmer says she received a letter from her GP stating that she suffered from ‘medication-induced compulsive gambling’.
She claims that her compulsive gambling “substantially increased” after being switched to extended-release Sifrol in higher doses, and says she now has a full-fledged gambling addiction. She is suing Dr. Bourne for $982,500 in personal injury damages.