Are your legs feeling restless?

October 7, 2007

Around the time of last year’s Super Bowl, I saw a commercial for a pharmaceutical treatment for “Restless Leg Syndrome.” My reaction was similar to that of one Slate.com commentator, who later included the TV spot on the website’s list of “Ads We Hate.” I thought “Well, my lengthy legs do occasionally suffer from strange sensations, pins-and-needles, and creepy-crawlies (note: these are actual symptoms that this and similar ads describe). Gee, I wonder if I need that stuff?”

Then I figured, “This has to be a joke.” Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame felt the same way. But nope, it’s no joke. I just saw ad for another RLS treatment drug as I was enjoying a home-cooked Sunday brunch. What stood out about this ad was the list of that drug’s side effects, which include (and once again, I shit you not): increased urge to gamble.

So, the next time you happen to be in Vegas, and your legs get restless, think twice before popping your RLS pills. Unless you’re with a floozy- in that case, the side effect of heightened sexual desire may come in handy. Otherwise, your legs may end up more relaxed but still probably in good enough condition to get you to the craps table, where you could very well blow all of your life savings. And if that happened, how would you pay your pill bills?

To be sure, even critics of these ridiculous campaigns acknowledge that there are some genuine sufferers of the disorder – just not nearly as many as the drugs’ manufacturers would lead you to believe. Here is an article by two Dartmouth researchers containing more information about the RLS media blitz and the artificial demand for a largely useless drug it’s spawned.

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One Response to “Are your legs feeling restless?”

  1. anne said

    Ah, Restless Leg Syndrome… the joke that writes itself. I mean, ok, I guess in some cases it is a legitimate affliction (?), but I really feel like we’ve got bigger things on our communal medicinal plate that maybe we should be a little more worried about. If the funding for the RLS media blitz had gone into, I don’t know, an HIV vaccine, I’d feel a little less inclined to relentlessly mock the entire thing.

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