Narcolepsy drug helps cancer-related fatigue: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The narcolepsy drug Provigil can alleviate severe cancer-related fatigue, according to new research presented on Saturday at a meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

Provigil, or modafinil, is used to treat adults with narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea who have difficulty staying awake. The drug is made by Cephalon Inc.

A 642-patient trial, funded by the National Cancer Institute, found that cancer patients who had the most severe fatigue at the beginning of the study showed the most significant improvement after taking the drug, while patients with mild or moderate fatigue showed no improvement.

“A majority of cancer patients expect they will experience fatigue and unfortunately, they are right,” said Dr. Gary Morrow, director of the University of Rochester cancer center and the study’s lead researcher.

He said modafinil “may have promise,” but further studies need to be done.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year added a warning about the risk of serious skin rash and psychiatric symptoms to the label of Provigil.

Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Anthony Boadle