The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute had this piece on their website on some of the available drugs that are out there for RLS. Please note that they say these are for use when lifestyle and nondrug treatments are not working. I appreciate that comment, because drug companies would have you think that their drug is the only cure, for me this is responsible reporting by an institute.
Medicines can help relieve some symptoms of RLS. Doctors prescribe medicines to treat RLS in people:
- With clearly defined symptoms
- Whose symptoms cannot be controlled by lifestyle and nondrug treatments
No single medicine is helpful in all persons with RLS. It may take several changes in medicines and dosages to find the best approach. Sometimes, a medicine will work for a while and then stop working.
Some medicines may not be safe for pregnant women.
Always talk with your doctor before taking any medicines, even over-the-counter medicines.
Medicines used to treat Parkinsonâ€™s disease also are used to treat RLS. Even though these medicines help reduce RLS symptoms, RLS is not a form of Parkinsonâ€™s disease. The medicines help reduce the amount of motion in the legs. They include:
- Levodopa (le-vo-DO-pa)
- Is best used to treat mild cases of RLS
- Is short-acting
- Works for a while but does not work long term in most people
- Dopamine agonists (pergolide (PER-go-lid), pramipexole (prah-mih-PEX-ohl), and ropinirole (roh-PIN-ih-roll))
- Are used to treat moderate and severe cases of RLS
- Are used to treat mild cases of RLS if levodopa stops working
- Are long-acting
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved ropinirole to treat moderate to severe RLS.
Other medicines may be used to treat RLS, including:
- Strong pain-relieving medicines (narcotics).
- Used most often when symptoms are severe
- May be used in people who donâ€™t respond to dopamine agonists
- Sedatives (benzodiazepines (BEN-so-di-AZ-e-pens)).
- Help with falling asleep
- May cause daytime sleepiness
- Are not recommended for people with sleep apnea and for older persons
- Medicines used to treat epilepsy (anticonvulsants: gabapentin (gab-ah-PEN-tin), carbamazepine (kar-bam-AZ-e-pen), and valproate (val-PROH-ate)). These types of medicines are:
- Considered when dopamine agonists fail
- Most effective in persons with daytime and evening symptoms, as well as sleep-onset symptoms, and in those who describe the unpleasant feelings in the legs as painful.
- Iron supplements, if iron deficiency appears to be contributing to RLS. Iron supplements should only be used if recommended by a doctor.