A French man under treatment for Parkinson's disease has been awarded 197,000 euros ($256,927) in damages after claiming that the drug Requip turned him into a gay sex and gambling addict. The drug, which is developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, is extremely effective at curbing the symptoms of Parkinson's — but as the Didier Jambart case suggests, users of the drug need to be on high alert for its potentially severe psychological side-effects.
Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neurological disorder characterized by shaking, stiffness, stilted speech, and balance deficiencies, destroys neurons that release dopamine — a critical neurotransmitter responsible for reward-driven learning. Basically, it's what makes us feel good when we accomplish certain tasks.
Requip, what's also known as Ropinirole, works as a dopamine agonist, what reinvigorates the dopamine receptors. But while this treatment helps to significantly reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's, it also produces a rather nasty side effect in about 17% of people who take the drug.
According to a 2010 study published the Archives of Neurology, Requip can give rise to a condition called impulse control disorder in which individuals become susceptible to such behaviors as hypersexuality, gambling, and excessive shopping.
And in the case of Didier Jambart, a 52 year-old married man with kids, when he started taking Requip in 2003, his impulse control disorder turned him into an Internet gambling addict — a habit that resulted in the loss of the family's savings, and Jambart having to resort to stealing money. By the end of this sad journey, he had lost over 82,000 euros ($106,944).
He also tried to kill himself eight times, and he became a compulsive gay sex addict. Jambart exposed himself on the Internet and started cross-dressing. He also claims that he started to engage in risky sexual encounters, including one incident that led to him being raped.
Once Jambert stopped taking Requip in 2005, his hyper-impulsivity stopped immediately — but so too did the suppression of his Parkinson's symptoms. But the damage was done — which has now been remedied in a French court (the recent 28-November ruling reaffirmed an earlier verdict).
Jambart is not the first person to sue a drug manufacturer for these side-effects. Back in 2008, Gary Charbonneau of Minneapolis won $8.2 million dollars in a similar case against Mirapex, Pfizer, and Boehringer Ingelheim. And two years ago, over a hundred patients in Australia sued Pfizer and Aspen Pharmacare over sex and gambling addictions.
Since 2006, GSK has started to put warning labels on Requip packaging — a year after Jambert's episode finally ended.
Photo : Thomas Brégardis/Ouest France.