Posted by: mkirschmd | January 9, 2010

Breakthrough Drug for Jet Lag?


Could this be the end of travelers pandiculating in the streets?  Relax parents, this term is Rated G and means yawning and stretching.  This is a family blog.

At present, there is no F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration) approved drug against jet lag, but that may change soon. The pharmaceutical company Cephalon is seeking FDA approval of their drug Nuvigil for jet lag. This would give travelers an option to reduce the effect of jet lag, which is more intense when traveling eastward across several time zones.

Jet lag can set travelers back a few days, if they don’t adequately prepare for the time zone change. If you have jet lag on a short trip, then you might miss most of it as you may be asleep and awake at the wrong times. If you are a business traveler on a 2 day trip packed with business meetings and sales calls, then you don’t want jet lag on your itinerary. A safe drug that really worked could be useful here.

Of course, there is a ‘behind the scenes story’ here, as reported in The New York Times. Nuvigil, already approved for other sleep disturbances, has a patent which expires in 2024. Cephalon is aiming for Nuvigil to take on the role of a closely related drug, Provigil, which will face competition from generics in 2012. The company would benefit if current or potential Provigil users, would take Nuvigil instead. And, with an official jet lag indication from the F.D.A., pharmaceutical representatives would be permitted to market the drug to nearly any physician, rather than only to sleep specialists.

Will physicians prescribe Nuvigil, a prescription medicine with potential side effects, for a benign condition like jet lag, particularly when there are safe available techniques?

Travel doctors typically recommend many risk free strategies to minimize jet lag:

  • Avoid caffeine for a few days prior to departure.
  • Stay well hydrated during your flight
  • Sleep during flight when it’s bedtime at your destination
  • Adjust your sleeping and waking times a few days before departure so your pre-departure schedule will mimic your destination time zone.
  • Adjust to the new time zone on arrival. No midday naps!
  • Consider melatonin supplements, not proven but used by many travelers.

What is our opinion? We’re skeptical that Nuvigil will be a magic bullet to transform travelers from stupor into a razor sharp state of alertness. Let’s see what the F.D.A. has to say about it. We will be following and will keep you posted.

Could Nuvigil be used for Blog Lag, a condition where the reader nods off in the middle of a blog post? Perhaps, we should contact Cephalon and begin some preliminary discussions.  Safe travels to all.



  1. Great info. I sure wish I had this info before my recent trip to Chicago. I was flying west to east and the jet lag was more noticeable going than returning. The only effects of landing in LA on New Years Eve on the return trip was that I couldn’t stay awake to bring in the new pst time (kind of redundant). Although it was the New Year in Chicago when I called it a night.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t rush to swallow Nuvigil just yet. Jet lag can be minimized with many of the risk-free strategies mentioned in the post. I hope you did not experience any ‘blog lag’ mentioned at the end of the post!

  3. As a frequent international traveler, I regularly perform all the above-mentioned ways to reduce jetlag, and quite honestly, I have no noticeable reduction of jetlag with these methods. There may be a slight improvement in mood, however, which is always good.

    The best non-Rx thing I’ve found is ZipFizz, which is a powder of mega-B vitamins and caffeine that is mixed with water (I buy it at Costco). I drink it upon landing, and it clears the fog, which allows me to perform in a somewhat more wakeful state.

    I would be interested in giving Nuvigil a trial run!

  4. […] Says No to Jet Lag Drug Travelogue readers were previously alerted to a new drug being promoted for jet lag.  While jet lag is not a serious threat to international travelers, […]

  5. Here’s the FDA’s final ruling on Nuvigil.

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