Safety and efficacy of amantadine, modafinil, and methylphenidate for fatigue in multiple sclerosis: a randomised, placebo-controlled, crossover, double-blind trial

Lancet Neurol. 2021 Jan;20(1):38-48. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(20)30354-9. Epub 2020 Nov 23.


Background: Methylphenidate, modafinil, and amantadine are commonly prescribed medications for alleviating fatigue in multiple sclerosis; however, the evidence supporting their efficacy is sparse and conflicting. Our goal was to compare the efficacy of these three medications with each other and placebo in patients with multiple sclerosis fatigue.

Methods: In this randomised, placebo-controlled, four-sequence, four-period, crossover, double-blind trial, patients with multiple sclerosis who reported fatigue and had a Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS) score of more than 33 were recruited at two academic multiple sclerosis centres in the USA. Participants received oral amantadine (up to 100 mg twice daily), modafinil (up to 100 mg twice daily), methylphenidate (up to 10 mg twice daily), or placebo, each given for up to 6 weeks. All patients were intended to receive all four study medications, in turn, in one of four different sequences with 2-week washout periods between medications. A biostatistician prepared a concealed allocation schedule, stratified by site, randomly assigning a sequence of medications in approximately a 1:1:1:1 ratio, in blocks of eight, to a consecutive series of numbers. The statistician and pharmacists had no role in assessing the participants or collecting data, and the participants, caregivers, and assessors were masked to allocation. The primary outcome measure was the MFIS measured while taking the highest tolerated dose at week 5 of each medication period, analysed by use of a linear mixed-effect regression model. This trial is registered with, NCT03185065 and is closed.

Findings: Between Oct 4, 2017, and Feb 27, 2019, of 169 patients screened, 141 patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to one of four medication administration sequences: 35 (25%) patients to the amantadine, placebo, modafinil, and methylphenidate sequence; 34 (24%) patients to the placebo, methylphenidate, amantadine, and modafinil sequence; 35 (25%) patients to the modafinil, amantadine, methylphenidate, and placebo sequence; and 37 (26%) patients to the methylphenidate, modafinil, placebo, and amantadine sequence. Data from 136 participants were available for the intention-to-treat analysis of the primary outcome. The estimated mean values of MFIS total scores at baseline and the maximal tolerated dose were as follows: 51·3 (95% CI 49·0-53·6) at baseline, 40·6 (38·2-43·1) with placebo, 41·3 (38·8-43·7) with amantadine, 39·0 (36·6-41·4) with modafinil, and 38·6 (36·2-41·0) with methylphenidate (p=0·20 for the overall medication effect in the linear mixed-effect regression model). As compared with placebo (38 [31%] of 124 patients), higher proportions of participants reported adverse events while taking amantadine (49 [39%] of 127 patients), modafinil (50 [40%] of 125 patients), and methylphenidate (51 [40%] of 129 patients). Three serious adverse events occurred during the study (pulmonary embolism and myocarditis while taking amantadine, and a multiple sclerosis exacerbation requiring hospital admission while taking modafinil).

Interpretation: Amantadine, modafinil, and methylphenidate were not superior to placebo in improving multiple sclerosis fatigue and caused more frequent adverse events. The results of this study do not support an indiscriminate use of amantadine, modafinil, or methylphenidate for the treatment of fatigue in multiple sclerosis.

Funding: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Publication types

  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amantadine / administration & dosage
  • Amantadine / adverse effects
  • Amantadine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Fatigue / drug therapy*
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / administration & dosage
  • Methylphenidate / adverse effects
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Modafinil / administration & dosage
  • Modafinil / adverse effects
  • Modafinil / pharmacology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate
  • Amantadine
  • Modafinil

Associated data