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A class of popular prescription sleeping pills may increase the user’s risk of death, according to a new study. WebMD reports that the pills in question, called hypnotics, include such popular drugs as Ambien, Lunesta and Resterol.
Using 2002-2007 data from a large Pennsylvania health system, researchers reviewed medical records for 10,529 people who were prescribed hypnotic sleeping pills and matched them with 23,676 patients who were never prescribed sleeping pills. They found that the top third of sleeping-pill users had over a five times higher dealth risk, as well as a 35% greater risk of cancer.
Hypnotic pills differ from other types of sleeping aids, in that they actually cause a person to fall asleep. By contrast, a supplement like melatonin promotes sleep through relaxation.
Sanofi-Aventis, the maker of Ambien, responded in a statement to WebMD: “Ambien has more than 17 years of real-world experience and is safe and effective when prescribed and taken according to its labeling.”
Also questioning the study’s validity is Nancy Collop, MD, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “You cannot assume, just because you find this kind of association, that hypnotics are killing people. People who go on sleeping pills are a sicker population. I know they tried to control for that, but these people simply are not as healthy,” she said to WebMD.