Drugs May Help Relieve Restless Legs Syndrome
In addition, those taking dopamine agonists slept better and scored higher on measures of quality of life. Dopamine agonists were originally developed to treat Parkinson's disease.
Side effects of dopamine agonists can include euphoria, hallucinations, weight loss, nausea, insomnia, tiredness or weakness, dizziness and drowsiness.
There are generic versions of Requip that cost far less, running between $11 and $22 a month. Insurance covers the treatment in most cases, so actual out-of-pocket costs will vary by insurance plan. The same is true for levodopa, Wilt said.
Neurontin and Lyrica also helped relieve symptoms in 61 percent of patients, compared with 37 percent of those taking a placebo, the researchers found.
The most common side effects of these drugs include fatigue, swelling in the legs, dizziness and weight gain.
Without insurance, Lyrica costs can run more than $100 a month, but again co-pays will vary by plan, Wilt said. The same is true for Neurontin, which can cost $117 to $135 a month without insurance.
Wilt noted there is no information on the effectiveness of treatments in pregnant women, young or old patients, those with milder symptoms or those with other serious medical conditions. "We urge caution in extending our conclusions to these individuals," he noted.
"Treatments for restless legs syndrome is now frequently advertised direct-to-consumer, and thus while this may enhance awareness it may result in patients seeking treatment for milder or other conditions not well-studied," he explained.
The harms of medications may outweigh benefits for these individuals, Wilt said. "Up to 25 to 50 percent with even moderate to severe and longstanding symptoms stop taking these medications after more than a year due to either side effects or lack of benefit," he noted.
Nonetheless, for people with moderate to severe restless legs syndrome symptoms, these medications provided important benefits, at least in the short term, Wilt said.
Patients should tell their doctors if they have bothersome sensations in their legs that include distressing, irresistible urge to move them that is relieved by rest, Wilt said.
"This may be due to restless legs syndrome or other conditions. An accurate diagnosis is important. Effective treatments for restless legs syndrome are available, and in patients with more severe symptoms may include medications," he said.