Written By Carla Harris
A large number of Australian citizens reported significant gambling problems after taking a prescription drug that was commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless leg syndrome (RLS).
The drug, manufactured and sold by the multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer under the commercial name Cabaser, has also been linked to multiple cases of sexual addiction. In total, nearly 200 Australians allegedly developed problematic dependencies on sex and/or gambling as a result of long time Cabaser use.
In the beginning of December, Pfizer agreed to settle with 160 Australians who took Cabaser to simulate the effects of dopamine within the human brain. A leading dopamine agonist, the drug mimicked the effects of dopamine to reduce bodily tremors and help patients regain control over their physical movements. Between 1996 and 2010, Cabaser was widely prescribed to individuals who suffer from Parkinson's disease and RLS.
The multi-million-dollar Pfizer settlement comes on the heels of a class action suit that accused the company of blatant negligence after failing to warn consumers about the drug’s dangerous side effects. Speaking through its directing partner Allanah Goodwin, the law firm of Arnold Thomas & Becker alleged that Cabaser caused people to go on "gambling and shopping binges and engage in bizarre hypersexual behaviour without realising it was a side effect.”
Pat Galea is one of the victims of Cabaser’s unique and troubling side effects. After taking Cabaser for nearly 10 years, the 65-year-old Australian resident lost approximately $700,000 on poker machines. Her behavior at the time was certainly out of character. "I'd go any spare moment I was not working,” she reported. “If it was payday I'd put most of it through and then realise I've got bills and rent and petrol to pay. As soon as I had any money, it was gone."