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Prescription sleep aid use soaring in US: study

Sleep AidOct 17, 05

The number of younger Americans reaching for prescription drugs to get a good night’s sleep and the money being spent to keep from tossing and turning, is soaring, according to a study conducted by a prescription management company.

Among adults aged 20 to 44, use of sleep medications doubled between 2000 and 2004, while spending among the age group for a restful night jumped 190 percent over that period, the Medco Health Solutions study released on Monday found.

The numbers were even more startling among children aged 10 to 19 with use of sleep aids up 85 percent and spending up a whopping 223 percent over 2000 levels.

Medco’s data analysis from the first six months of 2004 showed that 15 percent of the children taking sleep medicines were also using drugs to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but it was not clear whether the disorder or the medication treating it was causing the sleep problems.

The study also found that women among all age groups were far more likely to use sleep aids than men, with the largest disparity—58 percent higher—among women ages 20 to 64.

“Although the elderly are still the most frequent users of sleeping aids, the evidence found in this study shows that younger adults and children are starting to use these medications with even greater frequency,” said Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco’s chief medical officer.

“The pattern of insomnia in children reflects difficulty in getting to sleep, whereas with adults it’s a problem staying asleep,” Epstein said.

More than 70 million people in the United States may be affected by a sleep problem, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, with some 60 percent of them suffering from a chronic sleep disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Sleep drugs have clearly become big business and Epstein said there was every reason to believe the trends seen in the Medco study would continue to accelerate as new medicines come to market.

Americans filled more than 35 million prescriptions for sleeping pills in 2004, spending $2.1 billion, Medco said, citing NIH statistics.

Global Sales of Ambien, the world’s most popular prescription sleep drug made by Sanofi-Aventis, hit $1.76 billion in 2004.

The Medco study reviewed prescription drug claims of 2.4 million Americans between 2000 and 2004.

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