Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Currently the treatment of choice for symptomatic obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Some patients with OSA do not tolerate CPAP or have insufficiently severe symptoms to justify its use; for these patients, drug therapy would be a desirable potential therapeutic alternative. OBJECTIVE: To summarize the current evidence on the effectiveness of drug therapy in patients with OSA. METHODS: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials was performed to investigate the effects of drug therapy on OSA. RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS: Searches of bibliographical databases revealed 33 trials investigating the effects of 27 different drugs on OSA severity and/or symptoms. The mechanisms by which these drugs are supposed to improve OSA include, amongst others, an increase in tone of the upper airways, an increase in ventilatory drive, a reduction in airway resistance, and alterations in surface tension forces in the upper airway. In most of these studies there was no significant effect on OSA observed. However, there is evidence from a few small trials that some drugs, especially those thought to increase upper airway muscle tone, have the potential to reduce OSA severity; but further data from larger studies of adequate duration are needed.

Original publication




Journal article


Expert Opin Investig Drugs

Publication Date





647 - 656


Animals, Cholinesterase Inhibitors, Humans, Mianserin, Mirtazapine, Protriptyline, Pulmonary Ventilation, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Sleep Apnea, Obstructive, Treatment Outcome