I received a letter today from Sepracor, the manufacturers of Lunesta, a popular sleep aid indicated for the treatment of insomnia. Many doctors are hesitant to prescribe sleep aids, partly because of their often habit-forming nature and potential side effects. Sepracor's letter discussed labeling changes approved by the FDA. The new labeling will include warnings about severe allergic reactions that may occur during sleep, and sleep-driving or other complex behaviors (e.g. preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) with associated amnesia for the event.
From an FDA press release a few weeks old:
Although all sedative-hypnotic products have these risks, there may be differences among products in how often they occur. For this reason, FDA has recommended that the drug manufacturers conduct clinical studies to investigate the frequency with which sleep-driving and other complex behaviors occur in association with individual drug products.
The medications that are the focus of the revised labeling include the following 13 products:
Ambien/Ambien CR (Sanofi Aventis)
Butisol Sodium (Medpointe Pharm HLC)
Dalmane (Valeant Pharm)
Doral (Questcor Pharms)
Halcion (Pharmacia & Upjohn)
Restoril (Tyco Healthcare)
Sonata (King Pharmaceuticals)
Dr. Charles is right to point out that severe reactions to these medications are rare; but even so, it does make you take pause and wonder if non-pharmacologic alternatives are the better way to go, whenever possible.
If you're interested in learning more on this subject, you can listen to the Health Hacks podcast interview I recently recorded. I do talk in that podcast about cases I've seen.