Medications can help relieve restless leg syndrome.

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(HealthDay)-People who suffer from restless legs syndrome may get some relief from taking one of several drugs approved to treat the condition, a new review has confirmed.

These drugs, including Requip (ropinirole), levodopa, Neurontin (gabapentin) and Lyrica (pregabalin), reduce symptoms of restless legs syndrome in more than 60% of patients. The first two drugs increase dopamine levels in the body, while the latter two decrease the amount of calcium entering brain cells and trigger the production of other pain-reducing chemicals. Dopamine is a brain chemical that regulates movement and mood.

Doctors and patients have more information about the effectiveness and harms of the two drugs for treating patients with at least moderate symptoms of restless legs syndrome,” said Dr. Timothy Wilt, principal investigator at the Minneapolis VA Healthcare System.

Restless legs syndrome is a strong urge to move your legs. According to researchers, the legs become uncomfortable in lying or sitting positions, disrupting sleep and impairing quality of life.

One of the experts, Dr. Martin Nithammer, a neurologist at the Movement Disorders Center at the Cushing Neurological Institute of North Shore LIJ in Manhasset, New York, said the study is just a review of existing treatments for restless legs syndrome.

There’s nothing new here,” he said. It adds nothing to the field.

It is simply a compilation of evidence according to long-established guidelines, both in Europe and the United States, Nithammer said.

“These are the only treatments approved by the (US Food and Drug Administration),” he added.”

The report was published in the March 4 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Wilt’s team analyzed 29 clinical trials for their analysis. The results showed that 61% of patients taking dopamine agonists experienced at least a 50% improvement in symptoms, compared to 41% of patients taking inactive placebos.

In addition, patients taking dopamine agonists slept better and scored higher on quality of life measures. Dopamine agonists were originally developed to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Side effects of dopamine agonists include euphoria, hallucinations, weight loss, nausea, insomnia, fatigue and weakness, dizziness and drowsiness.

Generics of Requip are available for sale and cost between $11 and $22 per month. In most cases, the treatment is covered by insurance, so the actual cost depends on the insurance plan. The same is true for levodopa, Wilt says.

Neurontin and Lyrica also helped relieve symptoms in 61% of patients, compared with 37% of those taking a placebo.

The most common side effects of these drugs are fatigue, swollen legs, dizziness and weight gain. Without insurance, Lyrica costs more than $100 a month, but the co-payment depends on the insurance plan, Wilt says. The same is true for Neurontin, which costs between $117 and $135 per month without insurance.

Wilt noted that there is no information on the effectiveness in pregnant women, young or elderly patients, patients with milder symptoms, or patients with other serious conditions. We should be cautious about extending our findings to these patients.”

Currently, drugs to treat restless legs syndrome are often advertised directly to consumers, which may raise awareness, but this may lead patients to seek treatments for other conditions that are milder or less well-studied,” he explained.

For these patients, the harms of the drug may outweigh the benefits, according to Wilt. Even among patients with moderate to severe long-term illnesses, as many as 25 to 50 percent discontinue medications after a year or more because of side effects or lack of efficacy,” Wilt noted. Nevertheless, Wilt said, for people with moderate to severe symptoms of restless leg syndrome, these drugs had an important effect, at least in the short term.

Wilt said patients should report to their doctors any bothersome sensations in their legs, such as an overwhelming urge to move their legs that goes away after resting.

This may be due to restless leg syndrome or another condition. An accurate diagnosis is very important.” There are effective treatments for restless leg syndrome, including drug therapy for patients with severe symptoms,” says Wilt.

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