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Prescription Drugs Blamed for Many Cases of Parkinsonism

Thursday October 07, 2010

consumeraffairs.com - A new article published in WorstPills.org, a monthly newsletter published by Public Citizen, highlights the widespread nature of drug-induced Parkinsonism and the need for patients and doctors to be aware of the potential to be misdiagnosed.

The article includes a list of 49 prescription drugs known to cause drug-induced Parkinsonism.

Recent information has established that as many as one of every 10 people who went to a Parkinson's disease center were found to have drug-induced Parkinsonism -- not the more serious disease for which it is often mistaken.

Misdiagnosis
The people were misdiagnosed as having the more common illness, Parkinson's disease, which is irreversible and has unknown causes. Drug-induced Parkinsonism, however, is reversible and is brought on by medication use.

"The bad news is that too many doctors do not know about the diseases' differences, are inadequately aware of drug-induced Parkinsonism and therefore do not get a careful history from the patient about what drugs they started before the onset," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group and editor of WorstPills.org. "Doctors then mistake drug-induced Parkinsonism for the more commonly occurring Parkinson's disease."

This means that instead of suspecting a drug-induced origin and stopping the offending drug, doctors may mistakenly treat drug-induced Parkinsonism with another drug -- as though they were treating Parkinson's disease -- while leaving the patient on the drug that caused the illness in the first place, Wolfe said.

Aging can make one prone to drug-induced Parkinsonism, and older people may be especially sensitive to drug-induced Parkinsonism from antipsychotic drugs. Also, almost 100 percent of people infected with HIV will get drug-induced Parkinsonism if given antipsychotic drugs, the article said.

Knowing the difference
Some symptoms of Parkinsonism that can distinguish it from Parkinson's disease include:

• Symptoms on both the left and right sides (with Parkinson's disease, the symptoms are typically on only one side);

• Symptoms end once the drug is no longer used (Parkinson's disease is chronic and progressive); and

• No degeneration in the brain (Parkinson's disease causes brain degeneration in a specific area).