The wake-promoting agent modafinil is approved for the treatment of excessive sleepiness associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), shift work disorder (SWD), and narcolepsy. In OSA, modafinil is recommended for use as an adjunct to standard therapies that treat the underlying airway obstruction. This article reviews the literature on modafinil (pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, efficacy, tolerability, and abuse potential), with emphasis on use of modafinil in the treatment of excessive sleepiness in patients with OSA, SWD, and narcolepsy. In large-scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, modafinil improved objectively determined sleep latency, improved overall clinical condition related to severity of sleepiness, and reduced patient-reported sleepiness. Improvements in wakefulness were accompanied by improvements in behavioral alertness, functional status, and health-related quality of life. In patients with SWD, diary data showed modafinil reduced the maximum level of sleepiness during night shift work, level of sleepiness during the commute home, and incidence of accidents or near-accidents during the commute home when compared with placebo. Modafinil was well tolerated, without adversely affecting cardiovascular parameters or scheduled sleep. These findings and those of extension studies which reported improvements were maintained suggest modafinil has a beneficial effect on daily life and well-being in patients with excessive sleepiness associated with OSA, SWD, or narcolepsy.
Keywords: excessive sleepiness; modafinil; narcolepsy; obstructive sleep apnea; shift work disorder; wakefulness.