New Insomnia Drug Offers Lasting Relief
Long-Term Insomnia Treatment Safe and Effective
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 22, 2003 -- Taking a pill every night may be a safe and
effective way for insomniacs to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer for
months or even years at a time.
The first major study to look at the long-term effects of using
a drug to treat insomnia suggests that the latest generation of insomnia drugs
can provide long-term relief from sleepless nights -- without losing their
effectiveness over time.
Researchers found that nightly use of an experimental new
insomnia drug called Estorra not only helped insomniacs sleep better at night,
but it also helped them function better during the day.
"That combination -- improvement in all areas of falling
asleep, staying asleep, and quality of sleep, along with an improvement in
daytime functional ratings -- has never been reported in a study, let alone for
six months," says researcher Andrew Krystal, MD, MS, associate professor of
psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Although as many as a quarter of the estimated 2.5% of
Americans who suffer from insomnia use insomnia medications on a nightly basis
for four months or more, researchers say that until now there were no studies
to show that long-term use of these drugs was either safe or effective.
Treating Insomnia Over the Long Haul
Estorra belongs to a class of drugs used to treat insomnia
known as hypnotics and is currently under consideration for approval by the
FDA. Other drugs in this class that are currently available for short-term
treatment of insomnia include Sonata and Ambien.
Researchers say long-term use of insomnia medications has been
traditionally discouraged for several reasons. For example, there were concerns
that people might develop a tolerance for the drugs and they'd lose their
effectiveness, or people might misuse or abuse the drugs.
But this study, which appears in the Nov. 1 issue of
Sleep, showed that the drug provided about the same relief after six
months of use as after the first week of treatment.
"It demonstrates that at least [Estorra] and probably other
medications don't result in development of tolerance as is commonly
assumed," says researcher James K. Walsh, PhD, senior scientist at the
sleep medicine and research center at St. John's/St. Luke's Hospitals in St.