GlaxoSmithKline has announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use has recommended its synthetic dopamine agonist Adartrel (ropinirole) for the symptomatic treatment of moderate to severe idiopathic restless legs syndrome.

This could make Adartel the first widely available treatment for people in Europe suffering from the symptoms of RLS, a neurological movement disorder characterised by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs and painful or distressing sensations in the lower limbs. The agent, which has already obtained clearance for RLS in France, Switzerland, the USA (trade name Requip) and Australia (as Repreve), has been available since 1996 for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Meanwhile, a patent covering GSK’s Retorivir (zidovudine) has ended. Not surprisingly, the news was welcomed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has urged the UK drug giant to do more in the fight against the disease, and vowed that it would continue its legal wrangle with the firm in a patent piracy lawsuit. AZT was first created with help from National Institutes of Health funding in 1964 as a potential cancer therapy, but GSK (then Burroughs Wellcome) obtained the patent on the drug in the 1980s and priced it, along with certain derivatives, well over competitive rates, according to the AHF. Consequently, GSK currently holds 40% of the lucrative US AIDS drug market, with the current worldwide market estimated at around $2 billion dollars a year.

“While we are happy to see the end of GSK’s patent protection for AZT, this development comes as too little, too late, particularly for a drug that GSK didn’t even invent,” stated Michael Weinstein, President of the AHF.