Update on treatment for idiopathic hypersomnia

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2018 Feb;27(2):187-192. doi: 10.1080/13543784.2018.1417385. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) is a poorly characterized orphan central disorder of hypersomnolence responsible for excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), prolonged nighttime sleep and sleep inertia that often require long-term symptomatic stimulant medication. To date, no drug has currently the authorization for the treatment of IH patients worldwide. Areas covered: The authors reviewed data on pharmacological treatment of IH obtained from published literature (Medline/PubMed/Web of Science) and Clinicaltrial.gov database from 1997 to 2017. Most of data on treatment of IH derived from observational studies and case series with only three well-designed clinical trials available. Expert opinion: In two recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, modafinil improves EDS in IH. Most of other wakefulness-promoting agents labeled for narcolepsy have similar efficacy in cases series of IH patients. Pitolisant and sodium oxybate show promising results in two retrospective studies. The efficacy of γ-aminobutyric acid-A receptor antagonists on objective EDS needs to be clarified. All these medications are used off-label for the management of EDS in IH. Specific clinical instruments and objective tests are required in IH to better evaluate the severity of EDS and responsiveness to medications, but also prolonged sleep and sleep inertia, to optimize the whole management of IH patients.

Keywords: GABA; Modafinil; Sodium oxybate; WAKEFULNESS-promoting agents; idiopathic hypersomnia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Approval
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia / drug therapy*
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia / physiopathology
  • Off-Label Use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Wakefulness-Promoting Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Wakefulness-Promoting Agents