Narcolepsy is a central nervous system disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. This placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, 18-center study assessed the efficacy and safety of modafinil, a new wake-promoting drug for treating sleepiness in narcolepsy. Subjects with narcolepsy (n = 283) received daily modafinil, 200 or 400 mg, or placebo, for 9 weeks, followed by an open-label treatment period. Subjective sleepiness was measured with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Objective sleepiness was assessed with the Multiple Sleep Latency Test and the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test. Level of illness was measured with the Clinical Global Impression of Change. Modafinil significantly reduced all measures of sleepiness and was associated with significant improvements in level of illness. Medication-related adverse experiences were few, dose-dependent, and mostly rated mild to moderate. Modafinil taken once daily was a very well tolerated and effective wake-promoting agent in the treatment of excessive daytime somnolence associated with narcolepsy. Modafinil demonstrated an excellent safety profile for up to 40 weeks of open-label treatment and efficacy was maintained, suggesting that tolerance will not develop with long-term use. Modafinil is a pharmacologically and clinically promising compound for the treatment of pathological daytime somnolence.