Fatigue is a major nonmotor symptom in Parkinson disease (PD) and undermines efforts at coping with the disease. At present there are no known effective treatments for fatigue in PD. Modafinil is a drug originally developed to treat sleepiness and so it seemed reasonable to try it for fatigue in PD. Now a recent study of 19 PD patients who received the drug for several weeks reports only mixed results in terms of the drug’s effectiveness for fatigue. This small study showed that the drug was associated with better endurance performance on a finger tapping task but subjective feelings of overall fatigue did not improve over time. What can we conclude from such an equivocal set of findings. One wishes the investigators had studied more patients before publishing their results so that firmer conclusions could be drawn from their work. But it is difficult to recruit people for these sorts of studies so it was reasonable to publish what they found. Some information is better than none when there is no effective treatment available for this disabling symptom of PD. Modafinil deserve further study.
Lou JS, Dimitrova DM, Park BS, Johnson SC, Eaton R, Arnold G, Nutt JG. Using Modafinil to Treat Fatigue in Parkinson Disease: A Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2009 Jun 10. [Epub ahead of print].