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7 Restless Leg Syndrome

Disease Mongering for
Restless Leg Syndrome

by Jeffrey Dach MD

A textbook example of disease mongering by the pharmaceutical industry is the case of Requip for Restless Leg Syndrome.

What is Requip and Mirapex?

Requip is a powerful drug for Parkinson’s Disease.  Requip is also used to treat movement disorders caused by anti-psychotic drugs for mental patients (such as Prolixin and Haldol). Mirapex is similar to Requip.

Adverse side effects of Requip includes compulsive gambling and hypersexual behavior.(1)

Image at upper right courtesy of Library of Congress, 1936 Photo Portrait shows Florence Thompson with several of her children in a photograph known as "Migrant Mother." 

Magnesiun Deficiency Causes Restless Legs

Magnesiun deficiency causes muscle cramps at night and is the most common cause of Restless Leg Syndrome. (2) Sixty Eight Per Cent (68%) of Americans are Magnesium deficient, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service.(3)  Restless Leg Syndrome, or leg muscle cramping during sleep is not a reason for powerful Parkinson's drugs.  Inexpensive magnesium supplementation usually resolves the problem.  Using a drug like Requip instead of supplementing for magnesium deficiency is the height of lunacy, and would be comical if it wasn't tragic.  This is typical drug mongering indicative of a broken medical system.

Magnesium Deficiency, Not Requip Deficiency

In a medical study by Hornyack, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) significantly improved after supplementing with magnesium (about 300 mg each evening for four to six weeks).(4) Another study by Popoviciu showed that magnesium deficiency causes neuromuscular excitability and impaired sleep.(5) Another study by Bartel showed IV Magnesium to be curative for Restless Leg Syndrome when IV magnesium was incidentally given to pregnant women as a treatment for eclampsia.(6)  Magnesium supplementation is especially important for diabetic patients with insulin resistance.(7)
There are many more studies in the medical literature showing the connection between magnesium deficiency and restless legs at night, muscle cramps and muscle pain.  We have found in our experience that oral magnesium supplementation works quite well, resolving the problem promptly in most cases.

What is Disease Mongering?

Step One: Create an Illusory Disease called a "Syndrome"

Disease mongering is a marketing program that creates the illusion of disease where in fact, there is none.   Instead a real disease, the marketing program uses a symptom or a "risk factor" to create fear in the mass market.

We saw disease mongering in a previous report on Bisphosphonate drugs (Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva), with Sally Field as television spokeswomen.(8) These Sally Field ads create the fear of a real disease called osteoporosis in millions of women who have a lesser diagnosis called osteopenia.  Fracture rates actually increase in this Osteopenia group when they take bisphosphonates.

A true disease requires definite pathologic markers that clearly differentiate normal from abnormal.  An example of a real disease is heart disease in which arteries are blocked, cancer in which abnormal cells can be seen on biopsy, and hypothyroidism in which there are typical symptoms of fatigue, weakness, puffy face, dry skin, cold body temperature and abnormal lab values.

Step Two: Market the new illusory disease with a phoney Grassroots Organization

To popularize the new illusory disease condition, a pretend grassroots organization is created such as the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, a phoney organization sponsored with money from the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Boehringer Ingelheim, makers of the RLS drugs.  This is a pure marketing ploy.

Step Three: Create A Phoney Marketing Gimmick called "Awareness Week"

In order to make the "worried well" fear they have the new syndrome and need the drug, RLS Awareness Week was invented, and supports groups set up to offer a symptom check list so the masses could self-diagnose themselves as victims and  ‘sufferers’ of the illusory disease.

Step Four: Direct to Consumer Advertising


DTC Television ads imply that your doctor missed your symptoms and failed to diagnose your new syndrome called "Restless Leg". The ads are not required to be truthful and instead convey misleading, false or incomplete information. (see videos below). Thirty Nine Special Interest Groups have asked Congress to ban DTC drug advertising.(9)

Consumer Reports Evaluates the Requip Ad Video

consumer reports video imbedded (below)

Consumer Reports video on Requip (above)

Here is the Original Requip Ad (below):

Here is the Original Requip Ad (above) 
Where are the Responsible Prescribing Physicians?
Moira Dolan, MD of the Medical Accountability Network says the following:

"The Restless Legs Syndrome campaign includes all of the essential ingredients for successful disease mongering. Annual Mirapex (Boehringer) sales are over $324 million and Glaxo’s Requip makes over $500 million a year. The astounding transparency of the whole-cloth invention of RLS for the sales of the corresponding drugs reflects poorly on the prescribing physician. It represents a gross abdication of the responsibility of doctors to act as advocates and at least sentient information managers for their patients." (10)

How to Make Money in the Drug Industry

Identify a nutritional deficiency in the population (such as magnesium deficiency), create a new syndrome caused by the nutritional deficiency (such as Restless Leg),  and then start a disease mongering campaign to convince the masses to take an expensive, dangerous, powerful drug (Requip and Mirapex) instead of an inexpensive mineral such as magnesium, or a vitamin that actually solves the problem.  This template can be copied and repeated many times over, and it is.

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Jeffrey Dach MD
7450 Griffin Road. Suite 190
Davie Florida 33314


Compulsive Gambling, Sex Linked to Parkinson's Drugs Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News July 12, 2005

Can Fam Physician. 1996 July; 42: 1348–1351.  Muscle cramps and magnesium deficiency: case reports.D. L. Bilbey and V. M. Prabhakaran

USDA Agricultural Research Service,Percentage of individuals meeting DRI - Magnesium - 32 per cent

Sleep. 1998 Aug 1;21(5):501-5.Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study.Hornyak M, Voderholzer U, Hohagen F, Berger M, Riemann D. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Albert-Ludwigs-University, Freiburg, Germany.

Rom J Neurol Psychiatry. 1993 Jan-Mar;31(1):55-61. Clinical, EEG, electromyographic and polysomnographic studies in restless legs syndrome caused by magnesium deficiency. Popoviciu L, Aşgian B, Delast-Popoviciu D, Alexandrescu A, Petruţiu S, Bagathal I. Academy of Medical Sciences, Department of Neurology, Tirgu-Mures, Romania.

Intravenous Magnesium Sulfate May Relieve Restless Legs Syndrome in Pregnancy
Sharon Bartel; Sarah Zallek, M.D. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2006

Magnesium deficiency and diabetes mellitus Chetan P. Hans, R. Sialy and Devi D. Bansal

Bisphosphonates for Osteoporosis, A Closer Look at the Data by Jeffrey Dach MD

NEWS RELEASE May 24th, 2006 39 Health & Seniors Groups Call on Congress to End to DTC Prescription Drug Ads. Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert.

Selling Drugs and Disease, the Case of the Restless Leg Syndrome By Moira Terese Dolan, M.D. of the Medical Acountablilty Network

Aditional References

Television Ads, Videos

Requip TV comercial

November 01, 2007 Finally, an antidote to TV drug ads consumer reports Jamie Hirsch evaluates the Requip Ad.

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Requip videos on U-tube

Comedy video discussing requip reatless leg and their marketing

Disease Mongering

Giving Legs to Restless Legs: A Case Study of How the Media Helps Make People Sick Steven Woloshin*, Lisa M. Schwartz

The Business of Disease from Wired Science


What the ad doesn't tell you Excerpts from a Requip ad, deconstructed, Consumer Reports.

Bill Sardi on Disease mongering

Selling sickness: the pharmaceutical industry and disease mongering Commentary: Medicalisation of risk factors, Selling sickness: the pharmaceutical industry and disease mongering Ray Moynihan, journalist, Iona Heath, general practitioner, David Henry, professor of clinical pharmacology.  BMJ 2002;324:886-891 ( 13 April )


Bisphosphonates for Osteoporosis, A Closer Look at the Data by Jeffrey Dach MD

Suffered from Requip Side Effects? Lawyer wants to litigate.

24-Hour Parkinson's Drug: Longer Relief? Longer-Acting Requip May Reduce Need For Commonly Used Levodopa April 5, 2007. CBS News.

Blogger Comment: WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT PHARMAS THEMSELVES I was watching TV the other night and saw a commercial for some new medication for something that sounded serious … “RLS”! They went on to explain that RLS was “restless leg syndrome.”WHAT?
REQUIP Web Site: (ropinirole hydrochloride) Tablets REQUIP (ropinirole hydrochloride) is an orally administered non-ergoline dopamine agonist.It is the hydrochloride salt of 4-[2-(dipropylamino)ethyl]-1,3-dihydro-2H-indol-2-one monohydrochloride and has an empirical formula of C16H24N2O•HCl. The molecular weight is 296.84 (260.38 as the free base).

Mirapex web site

Restless Leg Foundation Web Site

Magnesiun Treats Restless Leg Syndrome

Treatable causes of restless leg syndrome, Pure Encapsulations Newsletter

Consumer Labs Restless Leg Syndrome Treated with Magnesium

Magnesium depletion in patients on long-term chlorthalidone therapy for essential hypertension.

Magnesium Information Web Site

The Importance of Magnesium to Human Nutrition by Michael B. Schachter M.D., F.A.C.A.M.

Genetic Marker for Restless Leg Syndrome: Financed by Drug Companies to Market Requip.  This is a rare marker affecting a small number of people.  Magnesium Deficiency is far more common.  This is a blatant misuse of genetics.

Brain, Vol. 126, No. 6, 1485-1492, June 2003 Autosomal dominant restless legs syndrome maps on chromosome 14q,  Maria Teresa Bonati1, Luigi Ferini-Strambi2, Paolo Aridon, Alessandro Oldani2, Marco Zucconi and Giorgio Casari Human Molecular Genetics Unit.

Magnesium Deficiency

Can Med Assoc J. 1985 February 15; 132(4): 360–368. A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems: 4. Hypomagnesemia.C Berkelhammer and R A Bear

Miner Electrolyte Metab. 1993;19(4-5):314-22. Clinical manifestations of magnesium deficiency.Abbott LG, Rude RK.

Am J Kidney Dis. 1995 Jun;25(6):973. Magnesium deficiency: pathophysiologic and clinical overview. Many therapeutic agents cause renal Mg wasting and subsequent deficiency. These include loop and thiazide diuretics, aminoglycosides, cisplatin, pentamidine, and foscarnet. Magnesium deficiency is seen frequently in alcoholics and diabetic patients, in whom a combination of factors contributes to its pathogenesis. Hypomagnesemia is known to produce a wide variety of clinical presentations, including neuromuscular irritability, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased sensitivity to digoxin. Refractory hypokalemia and hypocalcemia can be caused by concomitant hypomagnesemia and can be corrected with Mg therapy.

Drugs. 1984 Oct;28 Suppl 1:143-50. Magnesium deficiency. Causes and clinical implications.

Front Biosci. 2004 May 1;9:1278-93. Magnesium in clinical medicine.Touyz RM.
new technologies to measure the intracellular free concentration of magnesium ([Mg2+]i),

Magnes Res. 2006 Dec;19(4):237-43. High fructose consumption combined with low dietary magnesium intake may increase the  incidence of the metabolic syndrome by inducing inflammation. Rayssiguier Y, Gueux E, Nowacki W, Rock E, Mazur A.

Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1981;647:125-37. Magnesium deficiency. Etiology and clinical
spectrum.Flink EB.

New Horiz. 1994 May;2(2):186-92. Should we supplement magnesium in critically ill patients? Olerich MA, Rude RK.

Magnesium metabolism in health and disease.Elin RJ.Clinical Pathology Department, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. A large segment of the U.S. population may have an inadequate intake of magnesium and may have a chronic latent magnesium deficiency that has been linked to atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, hypertension, cancer, kidney stones, premenstrual syndrome, and psychiatric disorders.


Blog entry for Consumer Reports video discusses disease mongering in the Requip Video Ad

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This is the video for the Consumer Reports Video on Requip

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This is the original Requip Ad video in U tube.

Jeffrey Dach MD
7450 Griffin Road. Suite 190
Davie Florida 33314

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