Mayo Clinic Logo Dopamine agonists seem to be a class of drugs that include pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip) that may be used to fight Parkinson’s disease. Mayo Clinic experts now claim that dopamine agonists used in treating Parkinson’s disease can impulse control disorders. The drugs probably stimulate the brain’s limbic circuits which are pathways for emotional, reward and hedonistic behaviors.

As a part of the study, investigators scrutinized Parkinson’s disease patients’ records for over a recent two-year period. It was noted that the higher the dose, the greater the likelihood of an impulse control behavior. One in four patients on a medium therapeutic dose of the medication supposedly had an impulse control disorder.

“During this time, movement disorder physicians at Mayo Clinic were keenly aware that impulse control disorders could occur with these dopamine agonist drugs. If they encountered a patient who was taking this drug, they asked them or an accompanying family member whether or not they had noticed any new type of behavior. What we found was that in as many as 22 percent of patients during that two-year period had a new onset impulse control disorder,” said Anhar Hassan, M.B., B.Ch., a neurology fellow at Mayo Clinic and lead investigator on the study.

For patients who were taking a higher range of the medication, about one in three allegedly developed an impulse control disorder. Those taking dopamine agonists have to be aware about seeming behavioral changes. Once a new behavior is identified, reducing or stopping the medication may usually help treat the problem over a few days to a month.

The study was published online in the February 2011 issue of Parkinsonism and Related Disorders.