Sodium Oxybate treatment in pediatric type 1 narcolepsy

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Narcolepsy type 1 (NT1) is a rare chronic neurologic disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hallucinations and disrupted nocturnal sleep, usually with onset during childhood/adolescence. Pediatric NT1 is associated with limitations on children's activities and achievements, especially poor performance at school, difficulty with peers due to disease symptoms and comorbidities including depression, obesity, and precocious puberty. NT1 disease is caused by the selective loss of hypocretin-producing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus, most probably related to an autoimmune pathophysiology. Indeed a strong genetic predisposition including the HLA system and other associations in genes involved in immune responses has been found together with the triggering role of environmental agents such as H1N1 influenza infections and vaccinations. Sodium Oxybate (SO) is a sodium salt of γ-hydroxybutyric (GHB) acid that is synthetized by neurons in the brain and functions as neurotransmitter. GHB is a central nervous system depressant and produces dose-dependent sedation. SO is a first line medication for cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness in adults with NT1, but can be helpful also for sleep disruption, hypnagogic hallucination and sleep paralysis in these patients. Although in the majority of patients narcolepsy develops before 15 years of age, there are no approved treatments for pediatric NT1. However, SO has been widely used off-label to treat narcolepsy symptoms in children and adolescents with NT1 in non-controlled studies, showing a similar safety profile and therapeutic response to adult patients. Current therapy is based only on empirical data shared among expert sleep disorders clinicians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1073-9
JournalCurrent Drug Metabolism
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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