Advancing Sleep Medicine: Pioneering Research and Cardiovascular Health in Narcolepsy
For nearly two decades, Jazz Pharmaceuticals has been at the forefront of delivering innovative medicines to those living with debilitating sleep disorders. Our journey has been shaped by our foundational expertise in narcolepsy and dedication to making pioneering achievements for this disorder.
Each year on September 22, the sleep community comes together to recognize World Narcolepsy Day. This day holds particular importance, serving as an opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around narcolepsy. Year after year, we reaffirm our dedication to this community by persisting in our efforts to increase awareness among healthcare providers, those who support individuals with narcolepsy, as well as the greater public that may have little understanding of the devastating impact of this condition.
Increasing Understanding of Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a chronic, debilitating neurologic sleep disorder that affects approximately 20 to 55 per 100,000 people worldwide.1,2 While it is often overlooked and misunderstood, it is a serious condition and people can live with symptoms for years before receiving a proper diagnosis.3 It is estimated that half of the people living with narcolepsy may not know they have the condition.4
Narcolepsy is primarily characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and the inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally.1 People with narcolepsy frequently encounter episodes of sudden sleepiness known as “sleep attacks” and, despite their efforts to resist the urge to sleep, they unintentionally fall asleep for a brief period of time that can occur at inappropriate or even hazardous moments, including while driving, eating, or even in the midst of a conversation.5,6,7
Due to its debilitating nature, narcolepsy can have a significant, negative impact on an individual’s psychological, social, and professional functioning—it is a chronic condition with no cure and requires lifelong treatment.8 In addition to these severe symptoms and disruptions to daily life, people with narcolepsy have an increased risk of developing other health complications.
The Intersection of Narcolepsy and Cardiovascular Health
In our relentless pursuit of innovation and quest to deepen our knowledge of narcolepsy, we began to explore the role of comorbidities in this condition, uncovering some alarming truths. People living with narcolepsy face an increased risk of developing cardiovascular and cardiometabolic comorbidities including high blood pressure, heart diseases, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity.9,10 Our study, known as the CV-BOND study, further confirmed these findings, revealing that individuals with narcolepsy are at higher risk of experiencing new-onset cardiovascular events when compared to those without narcolepsy. Specifically, unadjusted incidence rates for new-onset cardiovascular events were higher in patients with narcolepsy than those without, including any stroke (4.3 versus 2.2 unadjusted incidence per 1,000 person-years), cardiovascular disease (13.3 versus 8.0) and heart failure (5.7 versus 3.4).11
These clinical findings underscore the importance of monitoring cardiovascular risk factors, such as sodium intake, in those with narcolepsy and thinking holistically about their health. Engaging in healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining a balanced diet can influence sodium intake as food and beverages are common sources of sodium consumption. Ultimately, healthcare providers need to look beyond symptom control and consider broader lifelong health implications when managing patients with narcolepsy.
It’s critical that patients and caregivers too recognize this connection. That is why we are proud to provide support to the American Heart Association to develop education for both patients and healthcare providers on the impact of sleep disorders on heart health. Most notably, the American Heart Association added sleep to its checklist for measuring cardiovascular health, evolving Life’s Simple 7™ cardiovascular health score into Life’s Essential 8™. Additionally, the chief clinical science officer of the Association recently stated, “Research continues to demonstrate that people with sleep disorders like narcolepsy may face even greater risk for heart disease and stroke than the general population.”
A Team United by Purpose
Since 2005, we have strived to forge new paths in sleep medicine that have an impact on patients’ lives. As we commemorate World Narcolepsy Day, our commitment to advance care for a condition that touches the lives of countless individuals only grows.
Being part of Jazz expands beyond just a career. Our collective passion propels us to delve into the complexities of sleep disorders in order to potentially shift the narrative for patients living with this disease. This path isn’t just about scientific progress, it’s about empowering individuals to embrace a healthier future—one where sleep and cardiovascular health are recognized as an essential cornerstone of overall well-being.
I’m proud to have joined Jazz on its 20-year journey of discovery and transformation in this field. As we look ahead to the next decade, we will continue to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and support the advancement of research and solutions for devastating sleep disorders.
1National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Narcolepsy. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/narcolepsy. Accessed September 2023.
2Scheer D, Schwartz S, Parr M, et al. Incidence and prevalence of narcolepsy in a U.S. healthcare claims database, 2008–2010. Sleep. 2018;41(suppl_1):A227.
3Morrish E, King M, et al. Factors associated with a delay in the diagnosis of narcolepsy. Sleep Med. 2004;5(1):37-41.
4Ahmed I, Thorpy, M. Clinical Features, Diagnosis and Treatment of Narcolepsy. Clin Chest Med. 2010;31(2):371-381.
5Dauvilliers Y, Arnulf I, Mignot E. Narcolepsy with cataplexy. Lancet. 2007;369(9560):499-511.
6Colten HR, Altevogt BM, Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, eds. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.
7Peacock J, Benca RM. Narcolepsy: clinical features, co-morbidities & treatment. Indian J Med Res. 2010;131:338-349.
8National Health Service. Narcolepsy – Overview. 2019. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/narcolepsy/. Accessed September 2023.
9Black J, Reaven NL, Funk SE, et al. Medical comorbidity in narcolepsy: findings from the Burden of Narcolepsy Disease (BOND) study. Sleep Med. 2017;33:13-18.
10Ohayon MM. Narcolepsy is complicated by high medical and psychiatric comorbidities: a comparison with the general population. Sleep Med. 2013;14(6):488-492.
11Ben-Joseph RH, Saad R, Black J, et al. Cardiovascular Burden of Narcolepsy Disease (CV-BOND): A Real-World Evidence Study. Sleep. 2023;zsad161.