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FDA Orders Makers Of Sleeping Pills To Cut Dosage For Women

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In today's Health Watch, the FDA is ordering the makers of Ambien and and other sleeping pills to slash the dosage in half for women.

And it's not just Ambien, it's all medications containing the ingredient Zolpiderm.

In 2011, there were 40 million prescriptions written in the United States for sleeping pills that contain Zolpiderm.

You may have heard stories of people on these medications who get up in the middle of the night and get into their car or go to the kitchen and eat without remembering it the next day.

This FDA action says there can also be a problem the morning after you take these pills.

The FDA has slashed the recommended dose of Ambien and other sleeping pills for women in half. Studies show that eight hours after taking the drug, up to 15 percent of women still have medication levels that make it dangerous to drive.

"What we are really talking about are delayed reaction times," said Dr. Michel Cramer Bornemann, of Hennepin County Medical Center's sleep disorders clinic.

Bornemann is often called as an expert witness when Ambien-related cases go to court. He says women metabolise Ambien and other sleeping pills more slowly affecting how they drive in the morning.

"Delayed reaction time in a car 65 miles an hour, delayed reaction is the difference between a minor fender bender or a potential tragedy," he said.

The state of Minnesota does not track the number of crashes caused by sleeping pills. While some crashes occur in the morning hours, other cases happen soon after taking the pills as patients sleep walk or even drive after taking an Ambien.

In 2006, Gussie Williams woke up in her car in Minneapolis in a stranger's yard.

"Ended up there, in the little grass and my car was headed in that direction, I don't know how I got there, though," she said. "I remember hitting that second car but I had no idea how I got up there."

And while the FDA-ordered dosage changes only affects women, men can also have severe and prolonged reactions to Ambien and similar medications.

In 2011, a Duluth man was found guilty of careless driving in a 2009 crash that killed two men. He had taken half an Ambien before he drove.

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