Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 17, 2007

More using sleeping pills, few complaints

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:14 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: While the use of sleeping pills in Malaysia is increasing, there are very few cases of patients suffering from unusual side effects, a psychiatrist said.
Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan director Dr Suarn Singh said very few people had complained of side effects, such as waking up in the middle of the night or wandering around without having any recollection of it.
“These side effects occur very rarely,” the senior consultant psychiatrist told the New Straits Times yesterday.
Dr Suarn was commenting on a report in the NST yesterday on the findings by the US Food and Drug Administration, which claimed that some of the most widely used sleeping pills could cause strange behaviour, like driving and eating while asleep.
He said doctors prescribing common drugs such as zolpidem and midazolam (which are marketed in Malaysia under the brand names Stilnox and Dormicum respectively) would always advise patients and their families about the possible side effects.
“Most general practitioners prescribe these drugs as they give immediate relief to patients who have trouble sleeping.
“These drugs are short-acting, which means they only knock you out for a few hours and you feel fresh and well-rested when you wake up.”
Dr Suarn said the increase in the use of sleeping pills among Malaysians could be due to a rising number of people suffering from depression, as insomnia was a symptom of depression.
He said doctors were being trained to identify depression and prescribe the appropriate treatment instead of symptomatic medication.
Sleeping pills, classified as psychotropic drugs, are available on prescription only.
An anaesthetist said he was sceptical about prescribing sleeping pills to patients and only prescribed Dormicum or Valium in rare cases.
“Even then, I only prescribe a maximum of two pills. If they need more, I refer them to a specialist.
“Very often, we can tell if the person is abusing the sleeping pills, by the symptoms they display when asking for the medication.”
He said he had prescribed Stilnox before, based on a patient’s request, but had never heard of anyone suffering from side effects after taking it.
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John Chang said patients on sleeping medication had to follow the correct dosage, as an overdose could cause unusual side effects.
“While sleeping pills are helpful to those having trouble sleeping, it can be harmful if too many are taken. Patients must listen to their doctors and follow the correct dosage.”
He also advised patients not to take sleeping pills with alcohol or other medication.
The Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical services division director Datuk Mohd Zin Che Awang said there had not been any cases where patients on Stilnox had suffered side effects.
“So far, we have not received any complaints of adverse reaction to this medication,” he said.
Quoting the MIMS Reference system, Mohd Zin said anterograde amnesia could occur in patients using Stilnox, and this was already stated on the product label.

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