Pharmacotherapy for restless legs syndrome

Luigi Ferini-Strambi, Sara Marelli
Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 2014, 15 (8): 1127-38

INTRODUCTION: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common condition characterized by paresthesia and an urge to move. Predominantly, symptoms occur at rest in the evening or at night, and they are alleviated by moving the affected extremity. RLS prevalence in the general population has been estimated to be approximately 5%.

AREAS COVERED: This review presents all options for the treatment of RLS.

EXPERT OPINION: Pharmacological treatment should be limited to those patients who suffer from clinically relevant RLS, that is, when symptoms impair the patient's quality of life, daytime functioning, social functioning or sleep. Treatment on demand is a clinical need in some RLS patients, and medications include carbidopa/levodopa, pramipexole, ropinirole, oxycodone, methadone, codeine and tramadol. Chronic RLS should be treated with either a nonergot dopamine agonist or an α-2-δ calcium channel ligand. A dopamine agonist is a more appropriate choice in the presence of depression and overweight. As α-2-δ ligands can alleviate chronic pain and may be helpful in treating anxiety and insomnia, the presence of any of these comorbidities may favor their use. For RLS present through much of the day and night, the use of long-acting agents, such as the rotigotine patch or gabapentin enacarbil should be considered. In refractory RLS, oral prolonged release oxycodone-naloxone should be considered.

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