Anti-fatigue drug to help tired doctors?

Charles Harvey

A study published last week suggests tired hospital doctors might make decisions better if they took a drug that combats fatigue. So much for the science – what is less certain is the ethics of doctors turning to drugs to get through long shifts.

Doctors, like many others, already rely on stimulants like caffeine and nicotine to boost flagging performance, but Colin Sugden at Imperial College London and colleagues decided to test whether they could benefit from something stronger: modafinil, a drug originally designed to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep apnoea.

The exact way modafinil affects the brain is not known, but it is believed that it acts on specific parts of the hypothalamus responsible for keeping people awake.

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