Popular Smart Drug Causes Life-Threatening Skin Condition for Singaporean Woman

singaporean woman gets deadly skin rash after taking modafinil

Singapore’s health agency has issued a warning against the use of a popular wakefulness-promoting drug after a local woman reportedly developed a life-threatening skin condition known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) after consuming it.

In an advisory issued on Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) warned consumers against using the unregistered drug modafinil, according to Channel NewsAsia.

HSA noted that the unidentified woman, who is believed to be in her 30s, has been taking “Modalert 200” that she reportedly obtained from her friend on alternate days for over three weeks to keep her alert during long hours of work.

She initially developed an itchy rash, which soon spread to her entire body. After a subsequent severe peeling of the skin, accompanied with painful throat, multiple mouth ulcers and conjunctivitis, she was admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Modafinil, which has been used in some countries to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, has gained popularity among individuals who have been using it as a performance-enhancing drug. 

Students in Singapore were also believed to be using the drug to improve concentration during examinations, according to the Straits Times

“Inappropriate use of modafinil by healthy individuals to stay alert or improve focus can be harmful,” HSA warned in its statement.

“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.”

The health authority further cautioned that such potent medicines should not be shared or supplied to friends and relatives “even if their medical condition may seem similar to yours.”

HSA pointed out that the supply and sale of an unregistered health product such as modafinil are considered an offense under the Health Products Act, which is punishable of a fine up to 50,000 Singapore dollars ($38,000) or a jail term of up to two years or both.

Feature Image via Flickr / Geoff Greer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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