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'Viagra For The Brain' Usage On The Rise

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There are three approved conditions, which are narcolepsy, shift work disorder and sleep apnea. But lately, prescriptions have been flying off the shelves for off-label usage. There are three approved conditions, which are narcolepsy, shift work disorder and sleep apnea. But lately, prescriptions have been flying off the shelves for off-label usage.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

It is a pill that excites the mind so much that it has been dubbed "Viagra for the brain." Users say it keeps them alert, focused, productive and successful. The drug is called Provigil. In the past four years, prescription sales have increased by more than 70 percent, with users calling it a wonder drug with no side effects.

Gene Hamilton of Stillwater has MS, but he can still get around the house just fine. Several years ago, he was prescribed Provigil for fatigue caused by MS and his job schedule.

"I was working evening shifts," Hamilton said. "[I was] basically up all day and then up most of the night … very little sleep."

Hamilton was using the drug as the FDA intended. There are three approved conditions, which are narcolepsy, shift work disorder and sleep apnea. But lately, prescriptions have been flying off the shelves for off-label usage.

"An off-label use doesn't mean it's illegal," Dr. Steven Hull, principal trial investigator for Provigil said. "It means that it's being prescribed for other than what the FDA has approved that it's used for."

That means completely healthy people are popping the pills just to get ahead. If they are like Hamilton, they won't have negative side effects. However, doctors say the danger is the unknown. Hull says off-label users are rolling the dice.

"There have, to date, been no long-term studies done to know what the long-term side effects [are]," Hull said.

News 9 medical expert Dr. Mary Ann Bauman says she does not prescribe the drug to her patients.

"I always worry about this type of medication being used because [people are] tired during the day," Bauman said.

Hamilton says the drug helped him, but he would not have taken it if he did not require it.

"As far as focused and super productive … I didn't see it that way at all," Hamilton said.

Doctors still say the healthiest way to get ahead is getting plenty of sleep, exercising and eliminating as many stressors as possible in life.

Provigil is so popular that there are websites dedicated to explaining how to get a doctor to prescribe the drug.

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