FDA Warns of Sleep Drug Risks
‘Sleep Driving,’ Severe Allergic Reactions Cited
March 14, 2007 -- The FDA today issued new warnings for prescription sleep
aids, alerting patients that the drugs can cause allergic reactions and complex
sleep-related behaviors, including “sleep driving.”
The agency said it has asked the makers of more than a dozen drugs to alter
drug labels and officially warn doctors and patients of the risks.
Allergic reactions included in the warning are anaphylaxis (a severe,
life-threatening allergic reaction) and angioedema (severe facial
Both anaphylaxis and the sleep behaviors were described by officials as
“rare.” The agency said no deaths have been reported as a direct result of
taking the drugs.
Still, officials decided to ask for the warnings after a review showed all
medications in the class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics carried the risk.
This class of drugs induces and/or maintains sleep.
Russell Katz, director of the FDA's Division of Neurology, said the agency
received reports of severe facial swelling in some patients who had taken
Rozerem, the most recently approved prescription sleep drug.
But a review showed “they all have cases reported with all the drugs,” he
told reporters in a telephone conference call.
The agency said it would ask companies to send letters to doctors and also
to issue new “medication guides” to patients filling prescriptions for the
The FDA has also requested that manufacturers create Patient Medication
Guides for their products.
It recommends that manufacturers perform clinical studies into complex
sleep-related behaviors connected to use of the individual drugs.
Strange Nighttime Behavior
Some patients who’ve taken the drugs, which include popular brands like
Ambien and Lunesta, have reported participating in behaviors akin to
sleepwalking, but far more complex.
They include preparing and consuming meals, talking on the telephone, or
even having sex -- all with no memory of the events.
“They’re rare, but because they’re intended to put people to sleep ... it
might be difficult for a patient to know they’re having this event if they’re
falling asleep or report to someone that they’re having this event if they’re
asleep,” said Katz.
FDA’s warnings include the following drugs:
- Ambien/Ambien CR
- Butisol Sodium
Congressman's Sleep Driving
Capitol Hill Police in Washington, D.C., briefly detained Rep. Patrick
Kennedy (D-R.I.) last spring after he collided with a road barrier while
driving late at night. Officers described him as disoriented.
Kennedy later said he had been taking prescription sleep aids and that he
had no memory of the events. He then checked himself into a drug rehabilitation
Katz said the new warnings were not sparked by Kennedy’s incident. He said
the agency had received more than a dozen reports of complex sleep behaviors in
patients taking the drugs.