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Parkinson's Drug Linked to Heart Valve Disease

Permax May Damage Heart Valves

WebMD Health News

April 28, 2004 -- A drug commonly used to treat the early stages of Parkinson's disease may damage the heart and increase the risk of heart valve disease, according to new research.

The study showed that 89% of Parkinson's disease patients treated with the drug Permax had leaky heart valves, called valvular insufficiency, a form of heart valve disease that occurs when the heart valves don't close properly. The condition forces the heart to work harder to meet the body's blood circulation needs and could lead to serious complications, such as heart attack or heart failure.

Researchers say cases of heart valve disease have previously been reported anecdotally among Parkinson's patients treated with Permax.

Permax is a member of a class of drugs known as dopamine agonists and stimulates nerves in the brain that would normally be stimulated by dopamine. People with Parkinson's disease suffer from a shortage of this brain chemical.

The results of the study were presented today at the American Academy of Neurology 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

Permax Linked to Heart Valve Disease

To determine whether these anecdotal reports represented isolated incidents or a common side effect of Permax that had gone unnoticed, researchers sent letters to 200 people with Parkinson's disease who were known to be taking Permax.

Those who wished to continue taking the drug were urged to have a heart ultrasound, called an echocardiogram, to detect any heart valve problems.

Echocardiograms were performed on 46 Parkinson's patients, and researchers compared the results to an age-matched healthy comparison group.

The study showed that 89% of the patients treated with Permax had evidence of leaky valves, and patients taking the drug were up to 18 times more likely to have significant leakage in at least one of their heart valves compared with the comparison group.

"Our study demonstrates that [Permax] may injure cardiac valves and, since they are available, consideration should be given to switching patients to an alternate dopamine agonist," says researcher Richard B. Dewey Jr., MD, associate professor of neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in a news release.

Symptoms of heart valve disease include:

  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swelling of ankles, feet, or abdomen
  • Rapid weight gain

People with Parkinson's disease using Permax or experiencing these symptoms should discuss the issue with their doctor.

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