At the beginning of July, Rep Henry Waxman (D-Calif) was recorded saying that restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disease “that was created by a drug company that wanted to sell a drug for the disease they had created,” according to the Atlanta Sleep School, which issued a statement in response to Waxman’s comment.
Prior to appearing on C-SPAN, where the comment was made, Waxman had received treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after fainting in his office. While discussing the visit to the hospital, Waxman said, “Somebody asked me, ‘Why is your knee jerking?’ And I thought I was making a joke, and I said, ‘Well, I have restless leg syndrome.’ Now, I don’t think there is such a thing as restless leg syndrome. I’ll probably hear from all those people who have it. But I thought that restless leg syndrome was a disease that was created by a drug company that wanted to sell a drug for the disease they had created. And I was making a joke.”
Waxman went on to say, “Well, when I got out of the hospital, I looked at my record; it said, ‘He claims to have restless leg syndrome.’ Well, I don’t know if there is such a thing or not. I don’t have it. But a lot of people start thinking they have medical problems because they’ve seen too many of these commercials. I don’t think that’s doing the public a lot of good. It’s certainly making the drug companies richer, but it’s not doing a lot of good for the public."
“For those who struggle daily with the disease, Rep. Waxman’s statement is anything but humorous,” wrote the Atlanta Sleep School in response to Waxman’s comment.
The Atlanta Sleep School issued a statement saying that Waxman’s comments illustrate a general lack of awareness about sleep disorders, saying: “Despite an increase in the availability of sleep services in the United States, there is still a lack of awareness about sleep disorders among the general population. According to the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, nearly 10% of the US population may have RLS. Although many in this group have a mild form of this disorder, millions of Americans struggle daily with severe effects of RLS.”