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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological disorder causing considerable impairment to daily living. This article is an overview of a comprehensive Cochrane meta-analysis on the efficacy and safety of dopamine agonists (DAs), the first-line treatment of RLS. CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases were searched for double-blind randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of DAs vs placebo. Thirty-five placebo-controlled RCTs (total number of patients=6954) were eligible. The likelihood of bias was considered to be low. The mean treatment duration of the RCTs was 10.3 (standard deviation 7.3) weeks, with treatment durations up to seven months. Overall, DAs showed a moderate improvement in the International RLS Severity Scale score (mean difference -5.7 points [95% confidence interval, CI, -6.7 to -4.7; P<0.00001]) and the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement response (risk ratio 1.44 [95% CI 1.34-1.54; P<0.00001]) compared with placebo. Periodic limb movements decreased by -22.38/h (95% CI -27.8 to -16.9; P<0.00001) for DAs compared with placebo. Sleep quality and disease-specific quality of life increased slightly to moderately. Safety data confirmed the established safety characteristics of DAs. Augmentation, a specific side-effect of dopaminergic treatment of RLS, was not assessed adequately. This meta-analysis showed that DAs have moderate efficacy in the treatment of RLS. Actively controlled and long-term studies are still lacking. Large-scale comparative studies are needed to identify the most efficient treatments for this chronic disorder. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Magdolna Hornyak, Claudia Trenkwalder, Ralf Kohnen, Hanna Scholz. Efficacy and safety of dopamine agonists in restless legs syndrome. Sleep medicine. 2012 Mar;13(3):228-36

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PMID: 22281001

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