Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin®) is a medicine approved to treat malaria. However, in the past, this medicine has been used "off-label" to treat or prevent leg cramps. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about using quinine for leg cramps, stating that this use could lead to potentially serious and life-threatening reactions.
When used for leg cramps, quinine can cause serious side effects, such as vision problems, hearing problems, and potentially life-threatening blood reactions and heart rhythm problems. Also, some people developed permanent kidney damage after using the medication for this use. There have also been reports of hospitalization and death.
Because of the risk for these reactions, quinine is no longer recommended for the treatment or prevention of leg cramps. If you have nighttime leg cramps, talk to your healthcare provider about safe and appropriate treatment options.
(For more information on the potential risks of using this medication for leg cramps, click Quinine for Cramps. This article also takes a look at causes of nighttime leg cramps and other possible treatment options.)
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Qualaquin [package insert]. Philadelphia, PA: AR Scientific, Inc.;2010 June.
United States Food and Drug Administration. Qualaquin (quinine sulfate): New Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy - Risk of serious hematological reactions. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm218424.htm. Accessed September 1, 2010.
Sheon, RP. Nocturnal leg cramps, night starts, and nocturnal myoclonus. In: UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2010.
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