Ambien (Zolpidem), one of the most common sedatives to treat insomnia and jet lags, was approved in 1992. About a decade later, worrying reports emerged about side effects, mostly by women, such as driving accidents the morning after taking the tablets, sleepwalking and bizarre behaviour without any recollection of it afterwards. In 2006, Ambien drew national attention when a disoriented congressman blamed the drug for a crash into a Capitol Hill barrier at 2 a.m.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs and served a year probation. Around the same time, Sanofi was slammed with a class-action lawsuit by Ambien users who complained of sleep-eating while under the drug's influence. Plaintiffs' lawyer Susan Chana Lask cited examples of clients gobbling buttered cigarettes and raw eggs (including the shells) while in an Ambien-induced haze. "Ambien zombies," she called them.
Only in 2013 did US drug regulators confirm that the manufacturer's recommended dose was double what women should take. The research prior to the drug's launch, in fact, had not differentiated between men and women (women, in fact, account for 64% of Ambien prescriptions) which was the reason why it had not been realised that women metabolise Ambien more slowly than men and hence still had the drug in their system when they woke up. The blood levels were so high the morning after that activities requiring alertness were impaired - including driving. It seems quite disturbing that sex and gender were not considered in the 1990s, but, even worse, "it's remarkable that this is still the case" (via and via).
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