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FDA advises smaller doses of sleeping pills to curb drowsy driving

A couple of weeks ago in this Ann Arbor motor vehicle accidents blog, we discussed a stunning study about how many Americans might be falling asleep behind the wheel. This week, shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more than 4 percent of Americans might be dozing off while driving, the Food and Drug Administration has officially recommended lower doses of sleep aids--citing problems and risks linked to drowsiness.

The recommendation applied to drugs that contain the widely used ingredient zolpidem, such as Ambien. Apparently, when women take sleep aids that contain this ingredient, the drug is likely to remain in their system through the morning causing them to be drowsy and impaired while driving.

The lower doses will mean that less of the drug will remain in the system in the morning.

The new recommendation only affects women because the drug reportedly metabolizes slower in women. Up to 15 percent of women reportedly still have a high level of zolpidem in their systems eight hours after consuming the drug compared to only 3 percent of men.

The recommendation is significant because so many Americans take sleep aids. In fact, one health care information and technology company reported that 60 million prescriptions were filled in 2011. Two-thirds of these contained zolpidem.

FDA officials stated that they have received around 700 reports of driving problems due to zolpidem.

The agency has recommended cutting the recommended dosage in half for women, from 10 milligrams to 5 for immediate-release products. Extended-release products should be lowered from 12.5 to 6.25.

It is good to see that government agencies are taking drowsy driving seriously. Driving while fatigued is a form of impaired driving and it results in car accidents, injuries and death far too often. Those who get behind the wheel and doze off may be held accountable in criminal and civil court.

Source: New York Times, "Drug Agency Recommends Lower Doses of Sleep Aids for Women," Sabrina Tavernise, Jan. 10, 2013

  • Our personal injury law firm helps hold negligent drivers accountable when people are injured or killed in car accidents. To learn more about the legal recourse and compensation that is available to victims of car accidents, please go to our firm's Car Accidents page.

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