In a new twist on the Parkinson’s medication front, studies are now showing that two drugs targeting the condition can actually result in an unexpected condition: heart valve damage.
These surprising findings have just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, were researchers from two studies looked at the drugs “Permax” (Eli Lilly & Co.) and “Dostinex” (Pfizer Inc.) to see what effects they had on the heart. Both drugs are available in generic form: Permax (pergolide) and Dostinex (cabergoline).
It turns out that they can cause the same type of heart damage as the now infamous dieting drug “Fen-Phen” caused after patients withdrew from it. Specifically, these two drugs leave patients with a higher risk of experiencing heart valve damage, as opposed to those individuals who use other therapies.
In the one study, researchers looked at records on 11,417 patients, and in the other they looked at tests on 245 patients who had Parkinson’s disease and were also concurrently taking either of the above-mentioned heart medications in order to corroborate on earlier smaller studies that looked at the drug/heart health link. The main focus in both studies was to look at how these two drugs influenced damage to heart valves in Parkinson’s patients.
What the researchers found was that those individuals taking Permax were 7.1 times more at risk to experience heart valve damage, as compared to those individuals taking advantage of other therapies. Also, those individuals who were taking the maximum allowed dosage of the drug faced a whopping 37 times higher risk of developing heart valve damage.
Those taking Dostinex were 4.9 times more likely to experience heart valve damage than those individuals on other therapies — and they were facing a whopping 50.3 times higher risk of damage when taking the maximum dosage of the drug.
What the researchers recommended — after reviewing both patient case studies and tests done on patients — is that doctors should not be prescribing drugs such as Permax and Dostinex, which have a biochemical property that is dangerous to the heart. These drugs have an effect on a cellular receptor that’s known as “5-HT2b,” which can lead to heart valve damage, resulting in heart failure and even sudden death.
According to Pfizer’s senior vice president, Michael Berelowitz, Dostinex is only approved in the U.S. for the treatment of hyperprolactinemia, which is a condition that causes access amount of a hormone known as “prolactin” to enter the bloodstream and cause benign tumors in the pituitary gland. It is used in Europe for treating Parkinson’s disease. Berelowitz also noted that there is a clear notice on the packaging about the side affects of the drug.
Also, there is a screening process that doctors can administer before a patient takes Dostinex to see if he/she is an ideal candidate for the therapy. As for the maker of Permax, Eli Lilly, it has not commented on the issue.
If you have Parkinson’s disease and are taking either Permax or Dostinex for the condition, you should speak to your doctor to see if you are at an increased risk of experiencing heart valve damage. While it does not occur in every individual, it is still well worth your time to ensure you are safe to take either therapy.