Restless Leg Drug Can Trigger Curious Side Effects

Dear Pharmacist,
Have you seen the commercial for Mirapex on TV for Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)? Is this a good drug to use for this condition?  I’m at my wits’ end and haven’t rested in years, to be honest.
S.H., Denver, Colorado

ANSWER:  Yes, I’ve seen that commercial, although I wasn’t paying close attention until the end, when they said, “Tell your doctor if you experience increased urges to gamble or have sex.”  Sorry, but if I get an urge to gamble, or have sex, it’s not my doctor I want to call!  How would the conversation go, any-way?  “Hey, doc, I’m flying to Vegas to play blackjack and I also feel a little frisky.  Can you fax a refill prescription to Caesar’s Palace before these urges subside?”  I’ve heard that some 24-hour drugstores are taking advantage of this side effect and installing roulette wheels right next to the cash register:  “Red 14, we have a winner!”     My bad.

Mirapex and the other med in this class, called Requip, are actually used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  They affect the muscles by boosting levels of a brain chemical called dopamine.  Dopamine also increases urges, lending explanation to the interesting side-effect profile.  Some people have good luck with Mirapex.  I should add that RLS is a maddening condition that affects more than just sleep. For more information, check www.rls.org.

RLS is manageable, so if you experience the more common side effects from Mirapex such as nausea, vomiting, sleepiness (possible narcolepsy), dizziness and fatigue, consider natural supplements, which I’ve written about in previous columns and in my book (“The 24-Hour Pharmacist”), including magnesium, CoQ10, iron, potassium and L-carnitine.

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