Sleep drug given OK for longer periods
Saturday, 12 January
The sleep drug zolpidem, prescribed for short term sleep problems, has been given the OK for longer periods.
The drug, taken three to seven nights per week, is safe and effective for at least six months in people who suffer from chronic insomnia, according to research published in the medical journal Sleep.
Insomnia – the most commonly reported sleep disorder – is characterized by trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. About 30 per cent of adults have symptoms of insomnia.
Many chronic insomnia patients take sedative-hypnotics for up to five years, Dr Andrew D Krystal from Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues note in their report, but Ambien and other medications have rarely been studied over extended periods.
They examined the efficacy and safety of Ambien extended-release 12.5 mg versus placebo, taken for three to seven nights per week for 24 weeks, in more than 1000 adults with chronic insomnia who exhibited difficulties both falling asleep and staying asleep.
As early as four weeks, patients taking Ambien reported significantly greater improvement in their sleep habits relative to patients taking placebo, the investigators report, and this difference persisted throughout the entire study.
Moreover, there was no evidence of rebound insomnia when the drug was halted. At the 12-week end point, roughly 90 per cent of Ambien patients reported that the medication helped them sleep, compared with 51 per cent of placebo patients.
"These findings extend those from short-term studies, supporting the safety and efficacy of long-term zolpidem extended-release pharmacotherapy for insomnia," the investigators conclude.