Washington, May 7 : People with leg cramps caused by narrowing blood vessels often stop walking because of the pain, but those who take naftidrofuryl - a drug that relaxes blood vessels - don't have to pause nearly as often, according to a new review by Belgian researchers.
Their analysis of seven studies involving 1,266 patients with the painful condition, officially called intermittent claudication, revealed that those taking the prescription drug for six months walked about 40 percent farther without pain than those taking a placebo.
What's more, well over half of naftidrofuryl-takers improved their walking distance more than 50 percent, compared with just over a third of people taking the placebo.
Naftidrofuryl users walked about 93 more yards on average, "reaching both the butcher and the baker instead of only reaching the butcher," says lead author Tine De Backer, M.D.
"Being able to walk that extra distance and have less pain makes an important, meaningful difference for these patients," said De Backer, a cardiologist at the Heart Centre and at the Heymans Institute of Pharmacology at Ghent University.
De Backer noted that naftidrofuryl only treats the type of leg cramping that is a symptom of intermittent claudication.
The drug does not treat the cause of the condition, which is peripheral arterial disease - hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels typically associated with diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, elevated blood lipids and aging.
In this review, patients on the typical naftidrofuryl dose of 200 milligrams three times a day showed increased walking benefits, even when researchers teased out the effects of exercise and smoking.
The study is published in The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration.