BACKGROUND: Narcolepsy with cataplexy is a debilitating sleep disease of which some symptoms can be treated with antidepressants. The antidepressant escitalopram is considered the most specific serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Ten patients (5 men and 5 women, age range 18-77 years) suffering from narcolepsy with cataplexy occurring at least weekly were treated with escitalopram 5 or 10 mg a day for 28-98 days. These patients were barred from taking any drugs influencing cataplexy and also had no other diseases affecting sleep or vigilance.
RESULTS: The mean number of cataplexies per week in 8 compliant patients declined significantly from 6.7 (+/-SD=7.2) to 0.3 (+/-0.6), P=0.02 (Sign test). Cataplexy completely disappeared in 6 patients. Subjective daytime sleepiness, power of concentration, quality of night sleep and mood remained unchanged. During the treatment, two patients had ejaculation disturbances. Two patients withdrew from the therapy (one because of ejaculation disturbance, the other for unknown reason).
CONCLUSION: Escitalopram proved to have anticataplectic effects in this small-scale open-label study.