18 Apr

Modafinil as a Treatment for PAH

Modafinil is well known now for how great it handles things like promoting wakefulness, treating narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness from sleep apnea, shift work sleep disorder, helping immensely with focus, and even treating stimulant addiction. However, there are many “off-label” uses that have appeared, from treating neurological fatigue to a recent discovery that shows it could help with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, or PAH. New information published less than a month ago shows promising potential for patients with PAH.

PAH: Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

If you’re wondering what PAH actually is, it’s a life–threatening condition that can get worse over time. It occurs when the very small arteries that go from your heart to your lungs become constricted or blocked making it harder for the blood to flow through them and raising your blood pressure. This condition causes the heart to pump harder to keep the blood flowing and will eventually weaken the heart muscles and can lead to heart failure. This condition can be caused for a number of reasons, including genetics, but is mostly due to various conditions that tend to cause high blood pressure (ex. Sleep apnea, emphysema, and more). You might not even notice some of the symptoms for a long time, though they include chest pain, fatigue, passing out, and swelling of the ankles and legs.

Can Modafinil Treat PAH?

It was recently found that modafinil can help improve PAH for those that are suffering from it due to the fact that it causes vasorelaxation (widening of the blood vessels) and helps to decrease medial thickening through down regulation of certain receptors, specifically the ET-1, ERA, and KCa3. In layman’s terms, it blocks the signals that tell an artery to get thicker. What’s unusual is that most stimulants do the exact opposite: Causing vasoconstriction and raising blood pressure. This meaningful study was conducted in Seoul, South Korea among various departments in the Ewha Womans University. Although this study was done on rats, the success is great news because human tests will follow very shortly and this could open up a whole new use for modafinil that is no longer just “off-label”.

The methods that were used in this study was done on six week old Sprague Dawley rats. The groups were split up into three with a control group that was given a saline solution, the modafinil group, and a group that was given monocrotaline (MCT). MCT actually creates PAH in rats, so this would make that group stand out more in the study. The modafinil group showed large signs of improvement as blood pressure dropped. The dosage of modafinil that was used was 50mg/kg, which would be a very large dose in a human. More research is needed to determine how much is necessary for human trials.

What’s next?

Modafinil keeps presenting new and exciting possibilities. Researchers love it because it has a proven track record of safety and has little to no potential for abuse or addiction. This is one of the most important aspects of a medication for patients with chronic conditions. Since they’ll likely be taking their pills often and potentially forever, it’s important to make sure that the medicine doesn’t do more harm than good in the long term. Modafinil fits the bill. It is very likely that in the future there will be more studies finding more uses for modafinil.

Keep in mind that human trials are still a ways off, and you should consult a medical professional if you have a condition like PAH before using modafinil. Although it is one of the safest drugs on the market it is always necessary to get a professional opinion.