Ropinirole as a Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome in Patients on Chronic Hemodialysis: An Open Randomized Crossover Trial Versus Levodopa Sustained Release

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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common neurologic condition characterized by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs, occurring primarily at rest, which are usually worse in the evening and are alleviated by movement. RLS is present in 20–40% of patients with renal failure. This study was a 14-week open, randomized, crossover trial of ropinirole vs. levodopa sustained release (SR) in 11 patients with RLS on chronic hemodialysis.


Eleven patients (7 men, 4 women) were enrolled in the study. They received either levodopa SR or ropinirole for 6 weeks, followed by a washout week, then the alternate treatment for 6 weeks. Patients rated the severity of RLS by means of a 6-item questionnaire developed by the International Restless Legs Study Group (6-item IRLS), by the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale, and by sleep diaries.


Under treatment with levodopa SR, 1 patient presented severe vomiting, leading to study discontinuation. The 10 patients who completed the study reported a 33.5% improvement (from 16.7 ± 3.2 to 11.1 ± 4; P < 0.001) of the 6-item IRLS scores during levodopa SR treatment and a 73.5% improvement (from 16.6 ± 2.8 to 4.4 ± 3.8; P < 0.001) during ropinirole treatment. By the end of the study the mean levodopa SR dosage was 190 mg/d and the mean ropinirole dosage was 1.45 mg/d. Ropinirole was superior to levodopa SR in reducing 6-item IRLS scores (P < 0.001) and in increasing sleep time (P < 0.001). The patient CGI scale showed a significant difference favoring ropinirole (P < 0.01). There was no significant carryover or period effect for any outcome measure. Four patients reported a complete reversion of RLS symptoms during ropinirole treatment at doses ranging from 0.25–2 mg/d.


These results suggest that ropinirole is more effective than levodopa SR in the treatment of RLS in patients on chronic hemodialysis.

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