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Modafinil (Molecule of the Month for November 2006)

Provigil, Modiodal, Vigil, Modalert, Modavigil, Alertec

Modafinil is an eugeroic drug generally prescribed to treat narcolepsy, made by the pharmaceutical company Cephalon Inc.. Modafinil is often described as a "wakefulness promoting agent." It is sometimes prescribed off-label for ADD/ADHD. In mass-media advertisements and websites, Cephalon markets the drug for improving 'alertness' and reducing 'excessive daytime sleepiness.' Cephalon has also developed and tested Nuvigil, a single enantimerically pure version of modafinil with a longer duration of action.

Modafinil is indicated in the treatment of narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea and shift work sleep disorder. In some countries, it is also approved for idiopathic hypersomnia. Modafinil is widely used off-label to supress the need for sleep. It is also used off-label in combatting general fatigue unrelated to lack of sleep, in treating ADHD, and as an adjunct to antidepressants (particularly in individuals with significant residual fatigue).

The French government indicated that the Foreign Legion used modafinil during certain covert operations. The UK's Ministry of Defence has admitted conducting on-going research into Modafinil. While it has has reportedly been investigated by the United States military for use by its soldiers to replace the current amphetamine derivatives. One study on helicopter pilots suggested that 600 mg of modafinil given in three doses can be used to keep pilots alert with only 8 hours of sleep in an 88 hour period. Another study on fighter pilots showed that 300 mg modafinil given in three divided 100-mg doses sustained the flight control accuracy of sleep-deprived F-117 pilots to within about 27 percent of baseline levels. It's unclear what the long-term effects on the brain would be from this sort of sleep deprivation, especially for people in as high-stress an environment as combat.

Currently, use of modafinil is controversial in the sporting world, with high profile cases attracting press coverage as prominent United States athletes have tested positive for the substance. Some athletes who were found to have used modafinil protested that the drug was not on the prohibited list at the time of their offence. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains it is related to already banned substances, so the decisions stand. The agency added modafinil to the list of prohibited substances on August 3, 2004, ten days before the start of the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)




Picture of Modafinil

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Picture of Modafinil

C15 H15 N O2 S

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for November 2006 )