Public warned not to consume modafinil after woman gets life-threatening skin condition

·Editorial team
Modafinil. (Photo: HSA)
Modafinil. (Photo: HSA)

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has cautioned the public not to take modafinil, a prescription drug that some use to increase alertness. The drug is not registered locally.

The warning comes after a woman in her 30s developed Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) after taking modafinil. SJS is a life-threatening skin condition often caused by certain medications, whose effects include blistering and severe peeling of the skin.

According to HSA, the woman had obtained the drug from her friend and took it on alternate days for more than three weeks to increase her alertness because she worked long hours.

The woman first developed an itchy rash, which later spread to her whole body. Subsequently, she experienced severe peeling of the skin, accompanied by throat pain, multiple mouth ulcers and conjunctivitis. She was then admitted to hospital for her condition.

Modafinil is available in some countries as a prescription drug. It is used to treat excessive sleepiness linked with medical conditions such as narcolepsy, said HSA. Those who suffer from narcolepsy have a tendency to fall asleep suddenly in inappropriate situations, said HSA.

Yahoo News Singapore previously reported that students took modafinil to help them stay focused while studying. The students obtained the drug through Carousell or online pharmacies.

“Self-medication with modafinil for these purposes is not appropriate and can be harmful,” said HSA. “Due to the stimulant effects it has on the brain, modafinil carries a potential risk of dependency. It can also cause serious side effects such as heart problems, hypertension, and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, hallucinations or mania,” said HSA.

HSA added that serious skin reactions, including SJS and toxic epidermal necrolysis, have also been reported with the use of modafinil. Such conditions can lead to hospitalisation, serious complications or even death.

Long-term side effects of using the drug include skin scarring and visual impairment, including blindness. Other vital organs can also be permanently affected.

HSA advised consumers to exercise caution when buying health products from unfamiliar sources, including online sources, even if they were recommended by friends or relatives.

The supply and sale of an unregistered health product such as modafinil is an offence under the Health Products Act. If convicted, those found guilty face a fine of up to $50,000 or a jail term of up to two years, or both.

Members of the public who have any information on the sale and supply of modafinil from unauthorised sources may contact HSA’s Enforcement Branch at 6866 3485 during office hours or email:

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