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A recent study by Italian researches found that about one-fourth of patients taking pergolide (Permax) or cabergoline (Dostinex) had moderate to severe heart valve problems. Another study by German doctors found that people using either drug were five to seven times more likely to develop leaky heart valves than those using other types of Parkinson’s medications.

“This is an extraordinarily high risk,” said Dr. Bryan Roth, a pharmacology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Roth was not involved in the Italian or German studies, but published a paper a few years ago warning that these drugs seem to cause the same type of heart valve leakage suffered by users of the diet drug Fen-Phen.

Dr. C. Warren Olanow, Chairman of Neurology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York believes that the findings will cause more doctors to prescribe other medications for Parkinson’s.

Permax is approved as an adjunct therapy to levodopa/carbidopa for Parkinson’s disease, but is often also prescribed for restless leg syndrome (RLS). Dostinex is approved for treatment of excessive prolactin in the blood, but is also used with levodopa/carbidopa for Parkinson’s disease.

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