Lower doses of sleep medications recommended for women

While the media often focuses on car accidents related to drunk driving or distracted driving, yet another cause of vehicle crashes rarely makes the news. Joliet residents and others across the U.S. who take prescription medications should be cautious when driving, even several hours after taking some medications, including sleep aids. And their doctors should remember to inform patients about the side of effects of different medications.

The sleep aid Ambien, in which the active ingredient is zolpidem, is one such sleep aid that can leave users feeling drowsy the next morning, which is especially dangerous for those who need to drive to work or take children to school.

After years of complaints about the level of drowsiness people were experiencing the morning after taking Ambien, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently determined that women should only take half as much of the commonly prescribed amount of Ambien. This warning comes after reviewing the results of laboratory studies and driving tests. When prescribing this medication, doctors need to be aware of this new warning in order to protect patients.

According to the FDA, the recommended dose of immediate-release sleep aids like Ambien, Zolpimist and Edluar should only be 5 milligrams instead of 10, while the recommended dose for extended-release sleep aids should only be 6.25 milligrams instead of 12.5 for women.

Why lower the dose specifically for women? Women metabolize the drug differently than men do, studies suggest. Eight hours after taking drugs containing zolpidem, 10 to 15 percent of women still have a high level of the drug in their blood that could impair driving. In contrast, only three percent of men still have a high level of the drug in their blood. Men who do not metabolize the drug quickly enough should consider having the dose of the medication lowered, too.

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

  • Our firm provides counsel to patients and their families who have been harmed by negligent dosing errors and other medication errors. To learn more about our firm and practice, please visit our Joliet medical malpractice lawyer page.

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