Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Are Your Sleeping Pills Doing More Harm Than Good?

Are Your Sleeping Pills Doing More Harm Than Good?

By Martha Rosenberg
March 9, 2012

As the industrialized world increasingly relies on sleeping pills, new information this week suggests they may not be as safe as thought. Drugs like Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata, older drugs like Valium and barbiturates and even sedative antihistamines all correlate with a three fold increase in the hazard of death say researchers in a recent British Medical Journal (BMJ). Some of the mortality stemmed from a "significant elevation of incident cancer," say the researchers and subjects did not have pre-existing disease.

Sleeping pills have never been Big Pharma's finest hour. In the 1960s, barbiturates were immortalized by Marilyn Monroe's death and by the 1967 movie Valley of the Dolls, which starred Sharon Tate, soon before her grisly murder. In 1993, the sleeping pill Halcion was banned in the United Kingdom and other countries for causing amnesia, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and violence in users. Travelers, among its biggest users, would find themselves on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and not remember boarding a plane. And in 2001, a similar pill, Dalmane, was said to "increase the risk of an injurious accident more than five times normal," at FDA/National Transportation Safety Board hearings.

And there were more transportation risks. Who in the U.S. can forget former Rhode Island representative Patrick Kennedy driving to Capitol Hill to "vote" at 2:45 a.m. on Ambien and other drugs and crashing his car in 2006? Law enforcement officials reported that traffic accidents increased when Ambien became popular with some drivers not even recognizing the police officers there to arrest them. (Hey Dude--help me get my car out of this ditch!) The FDA soon issued warnings about such apparent sleeping pill blackouts-- the potential of "complex sleep-related behaviors" that may include “sleep-driving, making phone calls and preparing and eating food (while asleep)"--for Ambien and twelve other sleeping pills. Sanofi-Aventis, Ambien's manufacturer, was forced to publish ads telling people if they were going to take Ambien, to get in bed and stay there. (Or you'll break out in handcuffs.)

Of 4,336 people on Ambien in the BMJ study, there were 265 deaths compared with 295 deaths among 23,671 people not on Ambien.

Even though sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and Rozerem only decrease get-to-sleep time by 18 minutes according to a major government study, they have been a gold mine for Big Pharma since direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising since everyone sleeps--or watches TV when they can't. In FDA documents, Rozerem, worked no better than a placebo, but its sales shot up 60 percent thanks to DTC advertising, reported the New York Times.

To "grow" the insomnia market, Pharma has rolled out subcategories like it did with different kinds depression. You could have chronic, acute, transient, initial or delayed- onset insomnia. You could also have middle-of-the-night, early-morning or menopausal insomnia--or even non-restful sleep. But if further research confirms the BMJ findings, enduring the minutes before you fall asleep may be better for your heath than popping a pill. You can always watch the TV commercials for sleeping pills.

*************

Martha Rosenberg's first book, Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published in April by Prometheus Books.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Fatuous Defence: Australia’s Guided Missile Plans

Even in times of pandemic crises, some things never change. While Australia gurgles and bumbles slowly with its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, there are other priorities at stake. Threat inflators are receiving much interest in defence, and the media ... More>>

Richard S. Ehrlich: Cambodia's Hun Sen Feels Politically Vaccinated

BANGKOK, Thailand -- When Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen received his AstraZeneca vaccination shot, he suddenly felt invulnerable and vowed to rule indefinitely. Hun Sen is already one of the world's longest ruling prime ministers, confident his successor ... More>>

Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: My Final Column?

I’m dying. It’s not easy to write these words. But it’s true. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Brawling Over Vaccines: Export Bans And The EU’s Bungled Rollout
The European Union has been keeping up appearances in encouraging the equitable distribution of vaccines to combat SARS-CoV-2 and its disease, COVID-19. Numerous statements speak to the need to back the COVAX scheme, to ensure equity and that no one state misses out... More>>

Jennifer S. Hunt: Trump Evades Conviction Again As Republicans Opt For Self-Preservation

By Jennifer S. Hunt Lecturer in Security Studies, Australian National University Twice-impeached former US President Donald Trump has evaded conviction once more. On the fourth day of the impeachment trial, the Senate verdict is in . Voting guilty: ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Let The Investigation Begin: The International Criminal Court, Israel And The Palestinian Territories

International tribunals tend to be praised, in principle, by those they avoid investigating. Once interest shifts to those parties, such bodies become the subject of accusations: bias, politicisation, crude arbitrariness. The United States, whose legal and political ... More>>