Pharmacological management of narcolepsy and cataplexy in pediatric patients

Paediatr Drugs. 2014 Oct;16(5):363-72. doi: 10.1007/s40272-014-0083-3.


Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder frequently occurring from childhood and persisting through adolescence and adulthood. Individuals suffering from narcolepsy exhibit excessive daytime somnolence, sleep attacks, cataplexy, dysomnia, metabolic perturbations including weight gain, and problems in social interaction and academic performance. The prevalence of narcolepsy in childhood is not known but can be estimated from adult studies to be greater than 20-60 per 100,000 in Western countries. The 2009 (A) H1N1 vaccination campaign led to an increase of narcoleptic cases both in children and in adults, supporting the autoimmune hypothesis of the disease. This article focuses on the epidemiology, etiology, and particularities of treatment in pediatric narcolepsy and details the effects of the drugs used to treat this condition, including recent trends in the field. Future therapeutic directions are also discussed. At present, medications used to treat children or adolescents have shown efficacy mostly based on clinical experience, given the lack of level 1 evidence-based studies in the pediatric population. Therefore, most compounds used in adult narcolepsy to target clinical symptoms such as wake-promoting or anticataplectic agents are prescribed off-label in pediatric patients. Published research shows the benefit of drug therapy for narcoleptic children, but these must be dispensed with caution in the absence of well conducted clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cataplexy / drug therapy*
  • Cataplexy / etiology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology
  • Influenza Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Narcolepsy / drug therapy*
  • Narcolepsy / etiology


  • Influenza Vaccines