Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Economic Upturn for Makers of Sleeping Pills

Another sign that the economy is affecting our sleep: We’re taking more sleeping pills.

Advertising Age reports that sleeping-pill prescriptions increased seven percent last year. Sales rose even though ad spending dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sepracor had revenues of $161.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2008 from sales of Lunesta. This was up from $149.8 million for the same quarter in 2007. Full-year revenues were a little more than $600 million in both 2007 and 2008.

But sales aren’t up across the board.

Fourth-quarter net sales of
Ambien CR (controlled release) in the U.S. were $170 million for sanofi-aventis. This was down from $190 million in the same quarter of 2007. Full-year sales dropped from $751 million in 2007 to $681 million in 2008.

Full-year net sales for
Ambien IR (immediate release) fell to $125 million in 2008. The sanofi-aventis patent for this drug expired in April 2007. Many other companies then received FDA approval to sell less expensive, generic versions of Ambien.

Boston Globe points out two other reasons why prescriptions may be up.

One reason has to do with safety. Older types of sleeping pills were limited to short-term use for one or two weeks. There was a risk that long-term use could cause addiction. There also was a risk that your body would develop a tolerance to the drug.

But sleeping pills introduced in the last two decades are considered to be safer. Ambien CR, Lunesta and
Rozerem all have been approved for long-term use.

A study in the journal Sleep in 2008 found that regular use of Ambien CR for six months is safe and effective. The study was funded by sanofi-aventis.

In 2007
a study in the journal Sleep confirmed the long-term effectiveness of Lunesta. A nightly dose of 3 mg remained effective after six months. The study was funded by Sepracor.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2007 showed that nightly use of Rozerem was safe and effective over five weeks. The study was funded by Takeda.

The Globe also reports that more doctors are taking insomnia seriously. They recognize that treatment can promote both physical and mental health.

In 2008
a study in the journal Sleep affirmed that primary insomnia is a legitimate disorder. It linked primary insomnia to low levels of the brain chemical GABA. Many of the most effective sleeping pills increase brain activity at the GABA neurons. The study was funded in part by Sepracor.

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