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The FDA warns against using quinine for leg cramps

July 8, 2010 | 10:54 am

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday cautioned consumers against using quinine for leg cramps, warning that the drug could cause severe side effects, including death. Quinine, sold in this country under the brand name Qualaquin, is approved for treatment of uncomplicated malaria, but has a long history of use as a remedy for leg cramps, especially at night. In many countries, it is sold over the counter. Studies have shown that it can reduce the incidence of cramps by one-third to one-half but that as many as one in every 25 users can suffer serious side effects.

In a new warning to health professionals, the FDA said that between April 2005 and Oct. 1, 2008, it had received 38 reports of severe adverse events associated with the drug, including two deaths. Twenty-one patients had to be hospitalized because of severe bleeding due to a loss of blood cells called platelets -- a condition called thromobocytopenia -- and an additional 12 had bleeding in their mucosa. The agency believes many similar events went unreported.

The agency is initiating what is known as a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy that will require, among other things, that the manufacturer send a letter to healthcare professionals warning about the risks of unapproved use of quinine and that pharmacies be required to provide consumers with a medication guide illustrating what the drug is approved for and pointing out the potential side effects.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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Comments (9)

Wasn't Quinine the Jedi who trained Obi Wan Kenobi in the Phantom Menace?

I take it this is substantially more quinine than can be found in a glass or two of tonic water? If not, could you please let us know.

Why don't they try pickle juice or a vinegar mix? It's supposed to be quite effective.

Leg cramps at night!

Put a bar of soap in bed near your legs.

Repeat:

Put a bar of soap in bed near your legs.

Gin and Tonic still OK?

Since cramps are a sign of magnesium deficiency, what would be wrong with chewing a magnesium pill for a leg cramp?

Works like a charm for me every time I have a cramp. I chew a mag chelate of 200 or 250 mg. The cramp, even if very severe, goes away practically before I have swallowed it all. This is so simple I wonder why anyone would look for other solutions.

There aren't any side effects to magnesium either.

Since cramps are a sign of magnesium deficiency, what would be wrong with chewing a magnesium pill for a leg cramp?

Works like a charm for me every time I have a cramp. I chew a mag chelate of 200 or 250 mg. The cramp, even if very severe, goes away practically before I have swallowed it all. This is so simple I wonder why anyone would look for other solutions.

There aren't any side effects to magnesium either.

Posted by: Sepp Hasslberger | July 09, 2010 at 09:45 AM

Wow... and what medical school did you get your degree from? All cramps are not caused by electrolyte deficiencies, and to think that this solution would apply to everyone makes you look like a fool. Reading Web MD does not make you a medical expert.

The FDA is against the use of quinine to treat leg cramps because it is much cheaper and far more effective than the prescription pill manufactured to treat the "restless leg syndrome" invented by drug companies on a quest to compromise public health and steal your dollars. As no lobbying faction owns the right to patent quinine, no Big Pharma stands to profit from its benefits. Not as much as they could with their very own miracle, must-have concoction, anyway. The fact that quinine is a superior treatment to R****p for annoying creepy crawly leg nerves must be hidden from the general population in order for the bunk $$$ pills to get gobbled instead. The FDA cites no studies suggesting causation of death correlated to quinine ingestion. They're going to issue a warning about the toxicity of a bark extract that has safely been used as an analgesic since ancient Peruvian times? Really? All while the print, radio, Internet, and television commercials urge you instead to consume for a condition that may or may not bother you, a chemical synthesized in a laboratory five years ago? Oh please.

This is classic FDA - too risk adverse and not letting innovative solutions on the market.

The problem is that it adversely impacts one out of 25 people. However, the drug can be a godsend for 24 out of 25 people. The FDA would rather focus on the risk of one in 25 people.

I have been on this drug for 15 years - twice a day. It is more than a muscle relaxant. There are thousands of people like me who have rare muscular disorders who need this type of medication. It has been a life changer with zero side effects. In addition, I have taken many precautions with my doctor to monitor some of the adverse effects this drug potentially has.

But the FDA would rather save two lives (which may or may not have been caused by this drug) over four years than really provide innovative solutions to thousands of others.

Lastly, this is a naturally occurring drug that has been around for centuries. That's not to say that it is 100% safe and does not need monitoring, but this is absurd to pull it off the market, which this statement essentially does as my insurance has not stopped copayment for this drug.



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