Sleep medications linked to increased death risk

ABC World News reported that a new study found “a link between sleeping” aids “and an increased risk of death.”

ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser said, “Over two years, people who took sleeping” aids “were at least three and a half times more likely to die of all causes than those who didn’t take these” tablets.

He added, “Short term is fine. If you’re having long term insomnia, it’s like a mystery you have to solve.”

On its website, ABC News reported that “adults who take” sleep medications “in even small numbers over their lifetimes may be nearly four times more likely to die earlier compared to those who are not prescribed” sleep medications, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

“And those prescribed sleeping” aids “may also be more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, the study found.”

The investigators “looked at electronic medical records of nearly 35,000 patients, fewer than half of whom took such FDA-approved sleep medications as Ambien [zolpidem], Restoril [temazepam], Lunesta [eszopiclone], and Sonata [zaleplon]” and “found that even those who look fewer than 18 sleeping” medications “a year were at greater risk of death, compared to those who were not prescribed sleeping aids.”

MedPage Today reported, “A prescription for 0.4 to 18 doses per year was associated with a mortality hazard ratio of 3.60 compared with patients who had no prescriptions for hypnotics” and “the hazard jumped to 5.32 for patients prescribed more than 132 doses a year,” the researchers reported.

“The authors acknowledged limitations to this research, most notably that residual confounding could not be fully excluded ‘due to possible biases affecting which patients were prescribed hypnotics and due to possible imbalances in surveillance.'”

The investigators “also pointed out that cohort studies may demonstrate an association but do not necessarily imply causality.”

The study “tracked more than 10,500 people averaging 54 years of age” who “had a range of underlying health conditions and were prescribed sleeping” aids “for an average of about 2.5 years between 2002 and 2007,” HealthDay explained.

“The researchers compared these patients’ risks for death and cancer against those of people who did not take sleeping” aids.

Specifically, there were 265 deaths among 4,336 people taking Ambien, compared with 295 deaths among the 23,671 people who had not taken sedatives or sleeping” aids.

Enter your email to subscribe to Dr. Walt's blogs.

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Dr. Walt Larimore will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.