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A new report describing the bizarre and dangerous side effects of the sleep aid Ambien has once again raised questions about one of the United States’ most popular prescription drugs.
In a story by the Fix, Allison McCabe chronicled the numerous cases in which Ambien has caused individuals to commit unsafe, and sometimes deadly acts.
In 2009, 45-year-old Robert Stewart was convicted on eight charges of second-degree murder after he killed eight people in a nursing home. He was originally charged with first-degree murder, but by claiming his tirade was Ambien-induced he was able to have the charges lessened and sentenced to 142-179 years in prison.
In a similar case, Thomas Chester Page of South Carolina was sentenced on five counts of attempted murder despite his claims that Ambien was the cause of a shootout with officers. He received 30 years of prison on each count, to be served concurrently.
In the courtroom, cases related to Ambien use have ranged from shootings to child molestation charges to car accidents. In one such case, flight attendant Julie Ann Bronson from Texas ran over three people – including an 18-month old who suffered from brain damage as a result. When Bronson woke up in jail the next morning, she could barely comprehend what she had done.
It wasn’t until Patrick Kennedy’s 2006 middle-of-the-night car accident and subsequent explanation to arriving officers that he was running late for a vote that the bizarre side effects of Ambien began to receive national attention. Kennedy claimed that he had taken the sleep aid and had no recollection of the events that night.
Shortly after the Kennedy incident, Ambien users sued Sanofi because of bizarre sleep-eating behaviors while on the drugs. According to Chana Lask, attorney for the class action suit, people were eating things like buttered cigarettes and eggs, complete with the shells, while under the influence of Ambien. Lask called people in this state “Ambien zombies.” As a result of the lawsuit, and of increasing reports coming in about “sleep driving,” the FDA ordered all hypnotics to issue stronger warnings on their labels.
It did put me to sleep very quickly, but after I woke up, I wouldn't have any memory of waking up and the next couple hours after. One time, I apparently locked myself in the bathroom, passed out face down in the shower, threw up in my parents car, cussed them out, etc... and then my memory started coming back while I was laying in my room. Thank goodness I didn't have my own car back then.
You know how if a bartender sells too many drinks to a patron and the patron goes out and kills someone while drunk driving then he can be held responsible? We need the same thing to happen with doctors who hand out these meds like candy. They need to be held responsible for pushing meds to people without considering the consequences nearly to the extent they should
Last year, a report by the Department of Health and Human Services highlighted about 2,200 doctors for suspicious activities such as over-prescribing drugs. More than 700 Medicare doctors were also flagged for issuing what could be seen as “extreme” and potentially harmful prescriptions.
In one instance, 24 doctors issued more than 400 prescriptions, including refills, for a single patient, while the average doctor writes about 13 prescriptions per patient, report said.
One doctor from Ohio went overboard in prescribing perceptions for more than a dozen patients. An Illinois doctor was flagged for having his prescriptions filled by 872 pharmacies in 47 states and Guam. In comparison, doctors have their prescriptions filled by 52 pharmacies on average.
One California doctor’s prescriptions cost Medicare $9.7 million – 151 times the cost of prescriptions ordered by an average doctor. The report also revealed that the doctor was supplied by two pharmacies that in the past were labeled as having questionable billing practices by the inspector general, the Washington Post reported.