Ask the Pharmacist
By Ron and Marla Chapleau
Health & Fitness
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Q: Can you tell me about the new sleeping pill that is about to be made available in Canada?
A: The drug zolpidem (to be sold under the trade name Sublinox) is new to Canada but has been available in the United States for a number of years under the names Ambien and Edluar where it has achieved a certain level of notoriety thanks to Tiger Woods and others.
In fact, it has been described as the world’s most popular sleeping pill. It is a non-benzo (ie. not like lorazepam, valium, etc.) hypnotic that is most similar in the way it works to the drug zopiclone (Imovane).
In the brain, zolpidem encourages the neurotransmitter GABA to basically “turn off” the electrical activity of nearby brain cells. These brain cells stay asleep until the drug has worked its way out of your system allowing most users to wake up without the hangover effect that is so common with the benzodiazepines.
Both zolpidem and zopiclone are also less likely to lead to tolerance or rebound insomnia than the benzos as well.
The two drugs have a similar onset of action, about 15-30 minutes, and therefore should be taken just prior to retiring for the night. The main difference is that Sublinox has a slightly shorter duration of action (about seven to eight hours) than Imovane which is often eight hours or longer.
Sublinox will be scheduled in Canada as a controlled drug, like the benzos (and unlike Imovane), meaning there will be certain restrictions on refills, transfers and identification requirements. The standard dose is a 10 milligram (mg) tablet that will disintegrate in the mouth.
Health Canada has already released an advisory, warning potential consumers that rarely this drug has been linked to complex sleeping behaviours such as sleepwalking, cooking and eating while asleep, and other abnormal activities.
As such, Health Canada has warned that patients with a history of sleepwalking should not take Sublinox nor should the drug be combined with alcohol, certain other drugs, and the agency has re-emphasized the importance of making sure you schedule at least seven hours for sleep before taking this pill.
The company will not aim its marketing at seniors due to concerns of excessive sedation and subsequent fall risk. It will not be covered by the seniors’ plan when it is released, and will retail for approximately $1.30 a tablet, which is significantly more expensive than zopiclone.
For more information about this or any other health-related questions, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination
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Monday, December 12, 2011