Most drugs carry the risk of side effects and being hooked by a false promise of benefits could actually worsen your health rather than improve it. In this country we pay 50% more than others for the same identical drugs, of which advertising costs are a huge part of that equation. We would save about $94 billion a year if we paid the amount that other countries do and the American Medical Association (AMA) recently called for a ban on drug ads just for the purpose of reining in drug prices.
Huffington Post investigated some falsehoods found in drug ads and actually focused on Belsomra, a next-gen type of sleeping pill that acts on a neurotransmitter. This drug is, at best, a very questionable insomnia treatment. Other research has found that Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata reduced the average time it takes to fall asleep by about 13 minutes and only increases total sleep time by about 11 minutes. In a 5-month period in 2015, FDA received 1,000 consumer complaints about Belsomra in reporting sleep paralysis, next-day drowsiness, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Now why
would anyone in his or her right mind want to take that risk for only 11 minutes more of sleep?
Two of the suicidal attempts actually succeeded in taking their own lives but it would be hard to prove it was the drug that caused it. This company has never tested product on people taking antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs, so it’s questionable what drug interactions there might be. Even with that information, Belsomra is expected to generate more than $300 million in sales this year and the main reason can be credited to Merck spending $96 million to advertise and promote it. Many of the side effects listed for these drugs are often worse than the initial complaint and reason for taking them.
When patients are seeking a drug they are twice as likely to ask their doctor for a particular drug they’ve seen on TV. Another study revealed just how easy it is to get a prescription for a drug you absolutely do not need, merely by asking for it.
The sleep experts maintain and emphasize that therapy and behavioral changes are the best treatments for insomnia and Belsomra provides “clinically meaningless” relief. Sleeping pills will also cause the patient to take quite significant risks. Some of those risks are:
- Increased risk for insulin resistance, food cravings, weight gain and diabetes
- Amnesia, even of events that occurred during the day
- Depression, confusion, disorientation and hallucinations
- Increased risk of accidents
- Increased risk for dementia in seniors
Other bizarre behavioral reactions that could be both risky and embarrassing are:
- Sleep eating
- Sleep-sex or “sexsomnia”
- Sleep-texting or sleep-tweeting
How would you like to be around someone going through these bizarre behaviors? Many side effects through one analysis is next day drowning, driving accidents, receiving driving tickets and even worse, sleep paralysis and hallucinations. Who needs that? Certainly not me and I am not willing to take that risk.
Optimizing your light exposure during the day and minimizing light after sunset, addressing mental states that prevent slumber, keeping the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees, taking a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bed and avoiding TV or using electronics before bedtime are some ways to improve your sleep. Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine by avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bedtime as well as implementing the other suggestions above. Let’s all take a pact to work harder to try the simpler and more natural ways to control our issues rather than taking these useless and expensive drugs.
–Dr Fredda Branyon