Gabapentin versus ropinirole in the treatment of idiopathic restless legs syndrome

Neuropsychobiology. 2003;48(2):82-6. doi: 10.1159/000072882.


Dopaminergic agents such as ropinirole are the drugs of first choice in treating restless legs syndrome (RLS). Recently, gabapentin, a structural analogue of gamma-aminobutyric acid, has also been shown to improve sensorimotor symptoms in RLS. Therefore, the tolerability and efficacy of randomized treatment with either gabapentin or ropinirole in patients with idiopathic RLS was evaluated in this 4-week open clinical trial. Patients with idiopathic RLS were treated with either 300 mg of gabapentin (n = 8) or 0.5 mg of ropinirole (n = 8) as the initial dose, and the dose was up-titrated until relief of symptoms was achieved (gabapentin mean dosage 800 +/- 397 mg, range 300-1,200 mg; ropinirole mean dosage 0.78 +/- 0.47 mg, range 0.25-1.50 mg). In both groups, International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group questionnaire scores improved significantly (p < or = 0.018), whereas the scores of the Epworth sleepiness scale remained unchanged within normal limits. Polysomnographic data showed a reduction of periodic leg movements during sleep (PLMS; p < 0.03) and PLMS index (p < 0.02) in both groups. Side effects were only mild and mostly transient. After 6-10 months of follow-up, in most patients, RLS symptoms were still improved. We conclude that gabapentin and ropinirole provide a similarly well-tolerated and effective treatment of PLMS and sensorimotor symptoms in patients with idiopathic RLS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amines*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids*
  • Dopamine Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gabapentin
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid*


  • Acetates
  • Amines
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Indoles
  • ropinirole
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Gabapentin