FDA Approves New Kind of Sleeping Pill
Rozerem First Drug to Target Brain's Sleep Center
WebMD News Archive
Unlike melatonin, which has widespread effects throughout the body, Rozerem
sends two specific melatonin-like signals to the brain's sleep center. This
reduces the alerting signal at the time a person wants to go to sleep.
"It is like shutting down a computer," Mini says. "You can pull
the plug and it goes off -- that's how we see traditional sleep drugs -- but
when you restart the computer, it takes a while. Or you can sign off
appropriately, and let the computer boot down. We see Rozerem as letting the
body boot down in normal fashion."
All that is still theoretical -- but it makes sense to David Neubauer, MD,
associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center and author of
Understanding Sleeplessness: Perspectives on Insomnia.
"It is clear that something critical is happening at the end of waking
time so the body lets us transition rather rapidly from being awake to being
asleep," Neubauer tells WebMD. "A lot of this has to do with the SCN.
And as [Rozerem] targets melatonin receptors in the SCN, it makes sense it can
make a gearshift toward sleep."
What Sleep Doctors Say
Is Rozerem going to affect the way doctors treat patients?
"I am delighted to have another thing to offer to my patients,"
Neubauer says. "There will be a lot of interest. One -- because it is the
first sleep drug in a very long time to have a new mechanism of action. And two
-- I think there is going to be a very high comfort level in prescribing this
drug. The safety level is extremely positive. A lot of doctors -- and a lot of
patients who haven't been interested in a sleeping pill -- may view this in a
different light and may be more comfortable giving it a try."
But Milton Kramer, MD, isn't sure Rozerem is going to be better than
existing sleeping pills. Kramer is director of psychiatric research, Maimonides
Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I don't think [Rozerem] is going to have an enormous impact,"
Kramer tells WebMD. "The issue is around the size of the change it
accomplishes -- its effectiveness in chronic [sleeping-pill] users is not
enormous. But people may see it as being a more 'natural' substance, and that
may give it tremendous appeal."