Narcolepsy Treatment

Narcolepsy has no cure

The goal is to decrease EDS and reduce occurrences of cataplexy using minimal medication, EDS and cataplexy must be treated separately. Traditionally, central nervous system stimulants (i.e., Ritalin, Dexedrine, etc.) have been used for EDS.

In 1999, Provigil (Modafinil) was the first stimulant approved for treatment of EDS associated with narcolepsy. Nuvigil, a longer-acting formulation of modafinil, has just been approved by the FDA. Tricyclic antidepressants (i.e., Vivactil, Tofranil, etc.) and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have traditionally been used for treatment of cataplexy and other REM symptoms. Most recently, the antidepressants Effexor (an SSNRI), and Strattera (an SNRI), are showing excellent results in alleviating cataplexy and reducing other REM symptoms.

In 2002, a new drug, Xyrem (sodium oxybate), was approved for the safe and effective treatment of cataplexy. In 2005, Xyrem was also approved to treat EDS associated with narcolepsy. Xyrem is the only medication that treats all major symptoms of narcolepsy.

In addition to drug therapy, 2 or 3 short naps during the day may help control sleepiness and maintain alertness.
Diet control, such as avoidance of sugar and refined carbohydrates, and regular exercise may also help. Continuing doctor-patient communication is essential. Equally important is educating family, friends, teachers, and co-workers about narcolepsy. Joining a support group is recommended.