Does Restless Legs Syndrome Really Shorten Life Span?

It may surprise you, but restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects 7% to 10% of the U.S. population, with varying degrees of severity. In the most extreme cases of this neurological disorder, patients have the urge to move their legs in response to severe discomfort or pain, which often interferes with sleep and can also impact other daily activities.

Now, according to a recent article published in the journal Neurology, RLS may also increase the risk of death in men. The study, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, tracked 18,425 American men over an eight-year time span and found that patients with RLS had a 39% increased risk of death.

In many ways, these results raised more questions than they answered. The patients enrolled in the study were screened for conditions that could already predispose them to a higher risk of death, such as diabetes and kidney failure, but RLS was not actually determined as the cause of death. Instead, researchers just discovered a statistical link between men with the disorder and a higher risk of mortality that will need to be explored further with rigorous clinical studies.

Treatments for RLS
While a better understanding of RLS and its long-term impact on health are needed, there are FDA-approved drugs available to treat the symptoms of this disorder. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK  ) brought a RLS drug, Requip, to market eight years ago, and the drug was also approved for Parkinson's disease. Total sales of the medication have been falling in recent years due to generic competition and reached only 164 million pounds ($257.5 million) in 2012. Until recently, GSK also had a second RLS drug called Horizant in collaboration with biotech company XenoPort (NASDAQ: XNPT  ) . GSK recently handed the rights to the drug back to XenoPort after sales failed to meet its expectations, and the biotech is now commercializing the drug alone.

RLS hasn't been a high-priority target for the pharma industry given the lackluster sales of Requip and Horizant, a third competitor of UCB's Neupro, and a number of generic alternatives. Impax Laboratories (NASDAQ: IPXL  ) was one of the few developing a new therapy, called IPX159, but Impax put the kibosh on the drug after it failed to meet its primary endpoint in a phase 2b study. According to its latest quarterly report, Impax has no other RLS drugs in development and seems to be focusing on getting its rejected Parkinson's disease drug Rytary back to the FDA for a second chance at approval.

Outlook
So, will the results of this study cause widespread panic over the long-term health implications of RLS? And from an investing point of view, will there be a dramatic spike in RLS drug sales? The answer to both questions, in my opinion, is no. The Neurology article has shone the spotlight on a poorly understood disease, but clinicians still need to run more trials and gather evidence before a causal relationship between RLS and mortality is established. Academic interest in RLS research should pick up in the coming years, but I think near-term drug sales in this space will be static.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2013, at 7:25 PM, Jonathan1008 wrote:

    There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that Earthing is an effective treatment for restless legs. The human body is a bioelectrical machine, and like all machines, it needs to be grounded to function properly. Sleeping with your body connected to the Earth stabilizes the random electrical activity of the body, and has many other benefits as well.

    Unlike the RLS drugs, Earthing can be done for free, using this DIY device: http://naturesplatform.com/earthing.html . I've been using one for the past 3 years with great results.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2013, at 9:30 PM, LadyTruck wrote:

    I've known two people with restless legs, both died with kidney cancer in their 60's.

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2013, at 12:03 AM, Dadw5boys wrote:

    One Doctor explained it all with what he called it.

    "LEGS HANGING DOWN DISEASE"

    You set to much with your legs hanging down all your weight cutting off blood flow to your feet. The blood get old in your feet if your not walking a lot.

    So get your feet up above your heart , go for long slow walks to pump old blood up to your heart, and don't set leaning forward putting more pressure on the arteries in your legs.

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2013, at 7:45 AM, restlesslegs wrote:

    Sleep deprivation can decrease the longivity of a life and Restless Legs Syndrome does cause sleep deprivation. As mentioned in an earlier post we do have electricity in our body, enough in fact to light a 40watt light bulb! Halcyon Bracelets would appear to help see www.rlysndrome.com

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2013, at 7:46 AM, restlesslegs wrote:

    sorry I typed that incorrectly www.rlsyndrome.com

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2013, at 3:40 AM, dwimble wrote:

    Hi Max

    Inflammation is believed to be a key factor when it comes to Restless Legs Syndrome.

    It's the chronic inflammation that is causing the early deaths, not the restless legs. The RLS is only a symptom of the chronic inflammation.

    Results of a scientific study were published in the January 14, 2012 issue of "Sleep Medicine Review Journal" that supports this theory. You can read that study here: http://www.rlcure.com/rls_study.pdf

    You can view the results of other related scientific studies and learn about some helpful solutions at this RLS information website:

    http://www.rlcure.com

    A blog for RLS sufferers with helpful tips can be found here:

    http://therestlesslegsblog.wordpress.com

    A Facebook page as well:

    https://www.facebook.com/AbsoluteCureForRLS

    The solution is a combination of a proper anti-inflammatory diet as well as introducing natural supplements and key vitamins & minerals into your daily life.

    David

  • Report this Comment On May 29, 2014, at 5:07 AM, halcyonbracelets wrote:

    Halcyon Bracelets now have over one years experience and have gathered many testimonials showing the positive effectiveness of the wearing the bracelets please visit www.halcyonbracelets.com for further information

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