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According to the RLS Foundation, one in ten American adults suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a neurological condition characterized by the irresistible impulse (often described as a “creeping” or “itching” feeling) to move one's legs. Symptoms are usually more pronounced at night and interfere with sleep.
The only drugs approved for RLS treatment are “dopamine agonists” (which activate dopamine receptors when the body cannot), including ropinirole (Requip) and pramipexole (Mirapex). A new study, however, has shown the anti-convulsant pregabalin (Lyrica) to also be effective in mitigating symptoms of the condition.
“Patients with RLS improved significantly more under treatment of pregabalin than under placebo,” says Diego Garcia-Borreguerro, M.D., director of the Sleep Research Institute in Madrid, Spain.
In fact, Dr. Garcia-Borreguerro's double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 58 patients showed pregabalin to be an effective means of both reducing RLS symptoms and improving quality of sleep. “After 12 weeks of treatment, we were able to reduce virtually all RLS symptoms in 63 percent of the patients,” Dr. Garcia-Borreguerro says, “and their sleep improved significantly.”
While participants in the study did suffer side effects from pregabalin (including unsteadiness or dizziness), Dr. Garcia-Borreguerro says the drug was generally “well-tolerated.”
“We still need to do a large, multi-center, well-controlled study that confirms these,” says Rajesh Pahwa, M.D., director of the Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorder Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “But it's good to know there's another class of drugs that may help.”