FDA orders recommended dosages of sleeping pills to be halved

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The Food and Drug Administration is requiring manufacturers of certain sleeping pills, including the widely prescribed Ambien, to reduce current recommended dosages.

Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist, as well as the generic forms of Ambien, all contain the ingredient zolpidem, which can cause morning drowsiness. Ambien is considered an effective medication for adults and seniors who can't sleep, although the National Institute of Health cautions that it can cause impaired motor and cognitive function in the elderly. Researchers also found last year that Ambien is among the sleeping pills that increase the risk of hip fracture in nursing home residents.

Studies have shown that women eliminate zolpidem at a slower rate than men, which was part of the logic behind the FDA making manufacturers change the dosage recommendations.

The recommended dosage for women will now be 5 milligrams (down from 10) and 6.25 mg for Ambien CR (down from 12.5 mg). For men, the FDA has said that healthcare professionals should consider prescribing the lower doses as well.

The FDA's change does not affect sleeping aids such as Lunesta and Sonata, which have different ingredients.

The agency encouraged healthcare professionals to use the lowest dose available of a sleeping pill for a patient or resident's insomnia.

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