A medication sometimes used to treat painful nighttime leg cramps may have some severe side effects including death. The FDA is advising you to stop using the Quinine, a drug sold under the brand name Qualaquin, unless otherwise directed.
Quinine is primarily a malaria drug, but has a long history of off-label use to prevent leg cramps. An FDA study shows the prescription drug reduces the frequency of cramps by up to one-half.
Nearly one in 25 may suffer serious side effects such as permanent kidney damage and thromobocytopenia, or severe bleeding due to loss in platelets.
The FDA reports the severe side effects occurred in 38 known cases between April 2005 and Oct. 1, 2008. Two people died after taking Quinine.
The warning is the second since 2006, when the FDA cautioned consumers because of serious safety concerns and risks.
Regular exercise and stretching appears to be the main option for preventing sleep-related leg cramps.
Nighttime leg cramps are most common in older adults and pregnant women. A typical episode involves suddenly waking with sharp pain in your leg or foot when a muscle contracts and tightens. Lingering soreness may prevent you from getting back to sleep.