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The link between sleep medications and preventable accidents

Last year, motor vehicle accidents impacted the lives of millions of Americans. One reason that motor vehicle accident rates spiked last year in certain contexts has recently been made increasingly clear. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that certain sleep aids remain in the system of certain patients well into the morning hours. This level of medication causes individuals to remain drowsy at the start of the day and inspires accidents as workers leave for their jobs and also causes employees to be hurt on the job.

As a result of these findings, the FDA is instructing manufacturers of sleep aids containing the active ingredient zolpidem to lower their dosages for women specifically. Women metabolize zolpidem more slowly than men do. Affected drugs include Ambien, Zolpimist and Edluar. Extended release medications containing zolpidem will have their doses cut in half for men as well.

An FDA spokesperson recently explained that "The purpose of the lowering is to help decrease the risk of next-morning impairment of activities that require alertness. We're particularly concerned about driving. A large fraction of the population drives and driving is an inherently dangerous activity."

In addition to this immediate change, the FDA will now require drug manufacturers to conduct driving-simulation tests for any new sleep medications they wish to put on the market. The FDA also aims to acquire information on medications already placed on the market as well, in order to better inform patients and prevent morning-time motor vehicle and work-related accidents.

Source: Health, "FDA: Lower Ambien's Dose to Prevent Drowsy Driving," Amanda Gardner, Jan. 11, 2013

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