SINGAPORE: A woman in her 30s who consumed modafinil was hospitalised after developing Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a life-threatening skin condition with blistering and severe peeling of the skin.
Modafinil is a potent prescription medicine that is not registered locally. The woman had consumed it to improve her alertness for her long hours of work after obtaining the product from her friend.
She developed an itchy rash which spread to the whole body after taking it. Her skin then peeled off severely and she had a painful throat, multiple mouth ulcers and conjunctivitis.
In an advisory sent on Tuesday (Feb 6), Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) alerted members of the public not to consume the drug without appropriate medical supervision.
HSA said that self-medication with modafinil for the purposes of improving focus and memory is not appropriate and can be harmful.
"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.
Toxic epidermal necrolysis has also been reported with the use of modafinil, which can lead to hospitalisation, serious complications or even death. Long-term side effects, such as skin scarring and visual impariment including blindness may be experienced, while vital organs including the lungs may also be permanently affected.
Consumers are advised to be cautious when obtaining or purchasing health products from unfamiliar sources including online, even if they are recommended by friends or relatives, said HSA.
Potent western medicines should also not be shared by friends or relatives even if their medical condition seem similar to yours, as it may not be suitable or safe for them.
Supplying and selling an unregistered health product such as modafinil is an offence under the Health Products Act. Anyone found guilty of it may face a fine up to S$50,000 or jailed up to two years.