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ADHD in Children Health Center

Narcolepsy Drug Shows Promise for ADHD

Treatment Should Be Available Early Next Year
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 6, 2005 -- A drug used to help people with excessive daytime sleepiness is showing promise as a treatment for children and teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The stimulant modafinil was found to be both effective and well tolerated in a newly reported nine-week trial involving kids and adolescents with ADHD.

Modafinil is approved for daytime sleepiness from conditions such as narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea. The drug will be sold as Sparlon for treating ADHD. A company spokesperson tells WebMD that it should be commercially available in just a few months pending final approval by the FDA.

Drug vs. Placebo

The ADHD drug will be sold in incremental dosages of 85 milligrams each to allow accurate once-a-day dosing. A typical dose will be 340 milligrams or 425 milligrams, depending on the patient's weight.

The newly reported study included 248 ADHD patients between the ages of 6 and 17, treated with modafinil or placebo (fake pill). Neither the patients nor their doctors knew which treatment the patient was getting.

Writing in the Dec. 6 issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers reported that the modafinil-treated patients showed significantly greater improvements in ADHD symptoms.

By the end of the nine-week treatment period, almost half of the modafinil-treated patients (48%) were rated by their doctors as "much" or "very much" improved, compared with 17% of the placebo-treated patients.

The main side effects noted that differed significantly from those given placebo were insomnia (29%) and decrease in appetite (16%).

"Children and adolescents treated with once-daily (modafinil) showed improvement in ADHD symptoms, including inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, both at school and at home," researcher Joseph Biederman, MD, says in a news release. Biederman is chief of the department of pediatric psychopharmacology at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

Better or Worse?

The study was paid for by modafinil manufacturer Cephalon Inc. In all, more than 600 children and teens with ADHD have been treated with the drug in company-sponsored trials.

But none of the trials has compared modafinil with the currently available drugs for ADHD. Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are among the most widely prescribed ADHD drugs.

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