AUG 17, 2021 8:00 AM PDT

Severe daytime sleepiness? A new drug can help: FDA approves Xywav to treat idiopathic hypersomnia.

WRITTEN BY: J. Bryce Ortiz

Being tired throughout the day is a common feeling for most individuals. In fact, 1 out of every 5 Americans see a doctor with complaints of daytime sleepiness. However, for some individuals, daytime sleepiness can be excessive and lead to significant challenges with school, work, and social relationships. This excessive daytime sleep is called hypersomnia. While some forms of hypersomnia have known causes, such as medical conditions, one form of hypersomnia, called idiopathic hypersomnia has no known cause. 

Idiopathic hypersomnia is a rare sleep-related disorder and is characterized by excessive daytime fatigue even after a full, uninterrupted night of sleep. Individuals with this disorder often sleep longer than normal (more than 9-10 hours a night) but never feel rested and have difficulty waking, staying awake, and show reduced focus and concentration throughout the day. 

Recent work by some researchers has tested the effects of a drug for the treatment of idiopathic hypersomnia. Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a novel drug called Xywav(calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium oxybates) for the treatment of idiopathic insomnia. The pharmaceutical company, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, gained approval to manufacture and market the drug in the United States. 

The approval of the drug is seen as a significant step in the treatment of this rare disorder. However, some are weary of the novel drug due to the fast approval and potential abuse and addictive potential. The key ingredients of the drug resemble the street drug GHB, which is also known as liquid ecstasy. However, one of the lead researchers, Yves Dauvilliers, stated that, “The clinical program for Xywav has demonstrated that [the drug] is an effective therapy for the treatment of idiopathic hypersomnia […] and is a significant step forward for patients.” The drug is a first of its kind treatment for this rare sleep disorder and offers an opportunity for patients to take back their day from the grips of excessive sleepiness. This unique medical condition can have a significant impact on the lives of those diagnosed with the disorder and, as Bruce Cozadd, CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, said, “Xywav is a meaningful treatment for patients […] living with idiopathic hypersomnia who currently have no FDA-approved options available.” 


Sources: Sleep FoundationHypersomnia FoundationSleep MedicineNeurologyDrugs.comJazz PharmaceuticalsNew York Times

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Science and medical writer | Researcher | Interested in the intersection between translational science, drug development, and policy
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