FDA cracks down on drowsy driving caused by sleep aids

There's No Substitute for Experience

The Food and Drug Administration has really started to take action when it comes to sleepiness and prescription drugs. Specifically, officials are concerned over how sleep drugs can end up affecting a person's driving ability the next morning. The hope is this will cut down on the number of accidents caused by drowsing drivers taking prescription drugs.

According to IMS Health, doctors wrote 60 million prescriptions for sleep-aid drugs in 2012. This means there are literally millions of people who are taking a pill in order to get a good night of sleep, but then waking up and driving to work. The issue is how awake these drivers really are and how long the prescriptions continue to stay in their systems for.

Recently the FDA has started to take action, including sending out a warning to drivers who take allergy medications and requiring a manufacturer of a generic Ambien to cut the recommended dosage in half for women. Even more recently though, the agency denied an application for a new sleep drug due to the fact that some people struggled to drive the next day.

Of course many will look at the FDA's involvement as a step in the right direction. However, part of the problem remains that people react differently to drugs. For example, while an Ambien-like drug may have someone feeling sluggish the next day, others may be perfectly OK to drive. Yet, there is another group who will be drowsy -- and probably should not drive -- but do not even realize this.

In 2011 the FDA did realize there are differences from patient to patient, especially between men and women. This led to the agency ordering all drugs containing zolpidem to be cut in half for women. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in many sleep drugs.

Again though, while this may be a step in the right direction, it is not a solution to the overall problem.

Looking to the future, if more stipulations are put on new prescription drugs, this heightened awareness by the FDA could mean more applications denied and more information being passed down to the general public in order to prevent accidents caused by drowsy driving.

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