New research suggests that the drug pitolisant might be an effective treatment for cataplexy, reports Neurology Today.

Pitolisant targets the histamine H3 receptor, and is the first in a new class of drugs for narcolepsy, Dr. Schwartz noted. Pitolisant is a histamine H3 receptor inverse agonist. Blocking the receptor with pitolisant activates histamine release in the brain and increases wakefulness and reduces cataplexy events, he explained.

Many of the therapies approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sleepiness associated with this disorder alter dopamine transmission. Medicines that work on serotonin and norepinephrine are also used off-label for narcolepsy. But these drugs do not work well for treating cataplexy, Dr. Schwartz noted. The only FDA drug available for cataplexy is sodium oxybate (Xyrem), a short-acting liquid drug that must be swallowed twice during the night.