Modafinil: Is it ready for prime time?


  • Eric Prommer, MD



modafinil, reticular activating system, psychostimulants


Psychostimulants have been used to treat many symptoms associated with advanced cancer. The primary role of psychostimulants in such cases is the treatment of symptoms such as cancer-related fatigue, opioid-induced sedation, depression, and cognitive dysfunction associated with malignancies. These uses for psychostimulants came after approval for treatment of disorders such as attention deficit disorder. Modafinil, a new psychostimulant, is following a similar path after its approval for use in attention deficit disorder in 1998. Modafinil has been used to treat fatigue associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is now being increasingly used for cancerrelated symptoms targeted by psychostimulants. Preliminary evidence from literature review suggests that modafinil is efficacious in improving opioid-induced sedation, cancer-related fatigue, and depression. There is no evidence to support its use in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction related to cancer or to support its having analgesic properties. Well-designed, randomized, controlled clinical trials are still needed to further elucidate the precise role of this drug in the care of patients with cancer. Specifically, large placebo-controlled trials with modafinil must be conducted in patients with cancer, with specific attention paid to pain control, depression, cognitive function, and adverse effects.

Author Biography

Eric Prommer, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology; VIP Palliative Care Program, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare, Los Angeles, California.


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How to Cite

Prommer, MD, E. “Modafinil: Is It Ready for Prime Time?”. Journal of Opioid Management, vol. 2, no. 3, May 2006, pp. 130-6, doi:10.5055/jom.2006.0022.