In an attempt to decrease instances of impaired driving, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently lowered the starting dose of the sleep aid Lunesta.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies lack of sleep as a public health epidemic. Sufficient rest is essential in order to perform complex tasks like driving a car. In fact, drowsy driving contributes to more than 40,000 motor vehicle injuries each year and at least 1,500 fatalities.
Adults who have difficulty sleeping often turn to medications for help getting enough rest. While sleep medications are useful, these prescription drugs can have dangerous side effects for many hours after they have been taken, including the following:
- Foggy/disoriented state
- Memory and psychomotor impairment
- Lack of mental acuity and physical coordination
Consider just one example of the alarming power of prescription sleep aids: In February 2014, human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy was acquitted on charges of impaired driving from when she mistook an Ambien pill for her daily thyroid medication. Ms. Kennedy testified that she had no memory of sideswiping a semi-truck and stopping with a flat tire by the side of the road after taking the pill.
Because of continuing concerns over impaired driving by motorists taking these medications, the FDA lowered the recommended dose of the drug zolpidem, brand name, Ambien, for women last year. This year, for the same concerns, the FDA lowered the recommended dose of the drug eszopiclone, brand name Lunesta, for men and women. Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Lunesta’s manufacturer, estimates there are currently more than 31 million prescriptions written for the medication.
Sleep-inducing medications can be quite dangerous, particularly if they are not taken as directed or prescribed correctly. Doctors in North Carolina and throughout the country are responsible for determining patients’ proper dosages and warning them of the risks. If you were injured in an accident that resulted from prescription medication side effects, seek legal guidance from a qualified attorney.