Ropinirole: new indication. Restless legs: disproportionate adverse effects.Prescrire Int. 2006 Oct; 15(85):173-6.PI
(1) The restless legs syndrome consists of unpleasant sensory and motor symptoms of varying intensity in the lower limbs. Symptoms occur at rest, seated or lying down, are more intense in the evening and at night, and are relieved by moving the limb. This syndrome does not cause serious physical complications. When sleep disturbances occur, non drug methods should be tried first. (2) Ropinirole is a dopaminergic agonist initially marketed for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. It is the first drug to be approved for restless legs syndrome in France. (3) Three double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trials with similar designs showed minimal differences on a composite rating scale. After 12 weeks of treatment, ropinirole led to an improvement of about 3 points on a 40-point scale compared with placebo. (4) A 12-week double-blind randomised controlled trial and including patients who had "responded" to ropinirole showed a lower relapse rate in the group that continued to use ropinirole (32.6%) instead of switching to placebo (57.8%). However, we do not know if this was because of continued drug efficacy or a rebound effect in the placebo group. (5) The adverse effects of ropinirole in patients with restless legs syndrome had already been observed in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, and included nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, a sudden urge to sleep, syncope, hypotension, and hallucinations. (6) An increase in the severity of restless legs symptoms, typically seen with levodopa, was not evaluated in clinical trials of ropinirole. Some cases have nevertheless been reported. They describe the appearance of symptoms increasingly early in the evening, then in the afternoon, or as a rebound effect in the morning or the latter part of the night. Their intensity increases and can affect other parts of the body. (7) In practice, ropinirole has a negative risk-benefit balance in restless legs syndrome, which is a minor health disorder.