Primary Hypersomnia Medication

Updated: Jan 09, 2015
  • Author: Adrian Preda, MD; Chief Editor: Iqbal Ahmed, MBBS, FRCPsych(UK)  more...
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Medication Summary

Patients often require drug therapy to treat daytime hypersomnolence. Prior to initiating therapy with stimulants, clearly establish a diagnosis and consider potential for abuse. [8, 23]

Modafinil, a wake-promoting agent, is approved for treatment of excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS), and shift-work sleep disorder (SWSD). [30, 31] The studies have shown significant benefits on various objective measures and subjective estimates of excessive sleepiness.

The clinical efficacy of modafinil, combined with its improved safety over CNS stimulants, has made it the most prescribed medication for the treatment of excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy. Unlike many other medications used for excessive sleepiness, modafinil is not known to be abused. The most common adverse event reported in clinical studies was headaches; most were transient and mild to moderate in severity. Modafinil also has the potential for interactions with other drugs metabolized via cytochrome P450 enzyme pathways.

For Kleine-Levin syndrome, somnolence can decrease with stimulants (mainly amphetamines), while neuroleptics and antidepressants are of poor benefit. Lithium, rather than carbamazepine or other antiepileptics, was found to have a higher success rate for stopping relapses. [32]



Class Summary

These agents have wake-promoting activities.

Modafinil (Provigil)

Modafinil may exert stimulant effects by decreasing GABA-mediated neurotransmission. It has wake-promoting actions similar to those of sympathomimetic agents. Modafinil improves wakefulness in patients with excessive daytime hypersomnolence. It has been used in narcolepsy and primary hypersomnia. Its mechanism of action is unclear.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Daytrana, Methylin, Concerta)

Methylphenidate is used for symptomatic management of primary hypersomnolence whenever the patient needs to be alert or engages in activities in which hypersomnolence may be hazardous. The drug blocks the reuptake mechanism of dopaminergic neurons. Methylphenidate stimulates the cerebral cortex and subcortical structures.

Dextroamphetamine (Procentra, Dexedrine Spansules)

This agent increases the amount of circulating dopamine and norepinephrine in the cerebral cortex by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine or dopamine from the synapse.

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine mixtures (Adderall XR)

This agent produces CNS and respiratory stimulation. The CNS effect may occur in the cerebral cortex and reticular activating system. Dextroamphetamine-amphetamine mixture may have a direct effect on alpha- and beta-receptor sites in the peripheral system and may also release stores of norepinephrine in adrenergic nerve terminals. The mixture contains various salts of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is available as 5-, 7.5-, 10-, 12.5-, 15-, 20-, and 30mg scored tablets.