Rise and Shine: New Drug for Treatment of Daytime Sleepiness Caused by Narcolepsy
WebMD News Archive
"We now have an effective medication [for narcolepsy] with few side
effects that's easy to prescribe and that's easy for the patients because they
don't have to keep getting new prescriptions often," Gross says. Patients
taking stimulants, such as amphetamines, to treat narcolepsy have to get new
prescriptions filled frequently because this class of drugs is more tightly
controlled by law and physicians can only prescribe a limited amount at a
After nine weeks of treatment, the drug was stopped for 80% of the patients
to see how stopping the medication would affect them -- if it would affect
During the two weeks following drug discontinuation, patients complained of
feeling more sleepy, but no signs of amphetamine withdrawal syndrome -- such as
sadness, fatigue, vivid unpleasant dreams, sleep changes, and increased
appetite -- were apparent. This suggests that the treated patients had not
become dependent on the drug.
"This is a very important addition to our [arsenal] for narcolepsy,"
says Gross, who is director of the sleep disorders center at the Lahey Clinic
in Burlington, Mass., and was the lead investigator of the U.S. Modafinil in
Narcolepsy Multicenter Group.
"This study demonstrates that modafinil is very efficient for most
patients with narcolepsy without any noticeable side effects," says Seiji
Nishino, MD, PhD, who reviewed the study for WebMD. "Because it's easy to
use, we should see good compliance, especially because it produces few side
effects. I think it will make a big difference [in the treatment of people with
narcolepsy]." Nishino is associate director of the Center for Narcolepsy at
Gross says it is important to realize that although modafinil improved
alertness in a profoundly sleepy population, it did not completely resolve all
symptoms of excessive daytime sedation. He also warns that improvements in
sleepiness may not occur until about three hours after taking the
Nishino is quick to point out that traditional treatments may still be
useful for narcolepsy, "[So] if modafinil doesn't work, we can still use
the classical stimulants."
This study was funded by a grant from Cephalon Inc., the manufacturer of
- Narcolepsy is an underdiagnosed condition that affects one out of 2,000
people and is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden attacks in
which sufferers are unable to move their bodies and therefore fall down,
attacks of paralysis while trying to sleep, and hallucinations.
- Researchers have found that the drug modafinil can help narcolepsy patients
be less sleepy and stay awake longer with fewer negative side effects.
- Currently, stimulants such as amphetamines are used to treat narcolepsy,
but these are difficult to prescribe because of legal restrictions on the