Modafinil was originally developed in France by Lafon Laboratories during the late 1970’s. This compound was discovered based on the invention of a series of chemicals classified as benzhydryl sulfinyl. Most importantly, this included the Modafinil precursor compound Adrafinil. It was this drug that was initially found to enhance wakefulness and vigilance which then became offered in France as a treatment for narcolepsy in 1986.

Modafinil was only discovered later as the primary metabolite and active component of Adrafinil. With a few modifications, it was discovered that this newfangled drug has fewer side effects and greater potency than its parent. As such, Modafinil was adopted for medical use in France in 1994 and now Adrafinil (Olmifon) has been discontinued for clinical use. Modafinil has been sold in the US since 1998, usually under the name of Provigil, marketed by the company Cephalon, Inc ( which purchased Lafon in 2001).