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Nuvigil vs. Provigil: How Are They Similar and Different?

Introduction

If you have a sleep disorder, certain medications can help you feel more awake. Nuvigil and Provigil are prescription drugs used to improve wakefulness in adults with diagnosed sleep problems. These drugs do not cure these sleep disorders, nor do they take the place of getting enough sleep.

Nuvigil and Provigil are very similar drugs with few differences. This article compares them to help you decide if one drug might be better for you.

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Indications

What they treat

Nuvigil (armodafinil) and Provigil (modafinil) boost brain activity to stimulate certain brain areas that are involved in wakefulness. The sleep disorders these drugs can help treat include narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and shift work disorder (SWD).

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep problem that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes your throat muscles to relax during sleep, blocking your airway. It causes your breathing to stop and start while you sleep, which can keep you from sleeping well. This leads to daytime sleepiness. Shift work disorder (SWD) affects people who often rotate shifts or who work at night. These schedules can lead to difficulty sleeping or feeling very sleepy when you’re supposed to be awake.

Drug features

Drug features

Nuvigil and Provigil are only available with a prescription from your doctor. The following table lists key features of these drugs.

Brand name Nuvigil Provigil
What is the generic name? armodafinil modafinil
Is a generic version available? yes yes
What is this drug used for? improve wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, OSA, or SWD improve wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, OSA, or SWD
What form does this drug come in? oral tablet oral tablet
What strengths does this drug come in? 50 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg, 250 mg 100 mg, 200 mg
What is the half-life for this drug? about 15 hours about 15 hours
What is the typical length of treatment? long-term treatment long-term treatment
How do I store this drug? at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C) at room temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C)
Is this a controlled substance*? yes yes
Is there a risk of withdrawal with this drug? no no
Does this drug have potential for misuse? yes¥ yes¥
 
* A controlled substance is a drug that is regulated by the government. If you take a controlled substance, your doctor must closely supervise your use of the drug. Never give a controlled substance to anyone else.
¥ This drug has some misuse potential. This means you could become addicted to it. Be sure to take this drug exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your doctor.

  • What does the half-life of a drug mean?
  • The half-life of a drug is the length of time it takes for your body to clear half of the drug from your system. This is important because it indicates how much active drug is in your body at a given time. The drug manufacturer considers the half-life of a drug when making dosage recommendations. For instance, they may suggest that a drug with a long half-life should be given once daily. On the other hand, they may suggest that a drug with a short half-life drug should be given two or three times daily.

    - Healthline Medical Team

The dosage for the two drugs is also similar. The table below lists the typical dosage for each drug by condition.

Condition Nuvigil Provigil
OSA or narcolepsy 150–250 mg once daily in the morning 200 mg once daily in the morning
Shift work disorder 150 mg taken once daily about one hour before work shift 200 mg taken once daily about one hour before work shift
 
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Cost and availability

Cost, availability, and insurance

Both Nuvigil and Provigil are brand-name medications. They’re also available as generic drugs. Generic forms of drugs have the same active ingredient as the brand-name versions, but they cost less in most cases. At the time this article was written, brand-name Provigil was more expensive than brand-name Nuvigil. For the most current pricing, however, you can check GoodRx.com.

Both drugs are available in most pharmacies. You may need prior authorization for your health insurance to cover all forms of these drugs. Generic drugs are covered by insurance plans at lower out-of-pocket costs than brand-name versions. Insurance companies may have a preferred drug list where one generic is preferred over others. Non-preferred medications will cost you more out of pocket than preferred medications.

Side effects

Side effects

The side effects of Nuvigil and Provigil are very similar. The charts below list examples of side effects of both drugs.

Common side effects Nuvigil Provigil
headache X X
nausea X X
dizziness X X
trouble sleeping X X
diarrhea X X
anxiety X X
back pain   X
stuffy nose   X
 
Serious side effects Nuvigil Provigil
serious rash or allergic reaction X X
depression X X
hallucinations* X X
thoughts of suicide X X
mania** X X
chest pain X X
trouble breathing X X
 
* hearing, seeing, feeling, or sensing things that are not really there
** an increase in activity and talking

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Drug interactions

Drug interactions

Nuvigil and Provigil may both interact with other drugs you’re taking. Interactions can make your drugs less effective or cause more side effects. Your doctor may increase or decrease your dosage of these drugs to avoid interactions. Examples of drugs that could interact with Nuvigil or Provigil include:

  • birth control pills
  • cyclosporine
  • midazolam
  • triazolam
  • phenytoin
  • diazepam
  • propranolol
  • omeprazole
  • clomipramine
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Warnings

Use with other medical conditions

Nuvigil and Provigil can cause problems if you take them when you have certain health problems. Both medications have similar warnings. Examples of conditions that you should discuss with your doctor before taking Nuvigil or Provigil include:

  • liver problems
  • kidney problems
  • heart issues
  • high blood pressure
  • mental health conditions
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Takeaway

Talk with your doctor

Nuvigil and Provigil are very similar drugs. The biggest differences between them may be the strengths they come in and their costs. If you have more questions about Nuvigil, Provigil, or other drugs, talk with your doctor. Working together, you can find a medication that’s right for you.

Read more: Tips and information for sleep and wakefulness »

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