19 January 2013

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 January 19, 2013
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging for lower nighttime dosages for sleep medications in an effort to improve road safety by avoiding drowsy driving.

According to a report appearing in the Monterey County Herald, generic brands of zolpidem, a drug routinely prescribed for insomnia, was prescribed over 40 million times according to 2011 data.

As a result of clinical studies, the FDA is urging doctors as well as patients to lower their dosing of sleeping drugs. Because of the amount of people taking sleeping medications, driving evaluations will be included in the required tests for new sleeping medication.

While not all sleeping medications contain zolpidem, over two-thirds of all existing sleeping medications contain this drug. The problem is that this drug is known for causing morning drowsiness, as cautioned by the FDA.

However, Dr. Ellis Unger, the director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation, cautioned against patients changing their current sleep medication dosages until speaking with their doctor. There is no federal mandate to lower dosages of sleep medications at this time. Dr. Unger merely states that is it a suggestion or recommendation from the FDA.

Dr. Unger goes on to say that the precise connection between car accidents and sleep medications remains unclear. There is no data as to when the accidents happen, the dosage involved or whether alcohol or other substances were involved.

This is part of a growing problem of falling asleep while driving. Government studies conclude that one in every 24 drivers have reported falling asleep while driving. Speculation is this number could be even higher as many drivers are unaware they have fallen asleep, especially if it’s only for a few seconds. In total, it is estimated that roughly 4 percent of all drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point.

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