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Increased death rate linked to sleeping pills

28th February 2012

A study has found that sleeping tablets used by high numbers of people in the UK are associated with an increased danger of death.

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The results of the study prompted the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to state it would investigate the claims of the research and see if it affected guidelines on prescriptions for sleeping pills.

The research, which was published in BMJ Open, looked at 10,000 people who took sleeping medication and around 23,000 people who did not take sleeping pills.

They found the danger of dying in people who took the pills was quadrupled in comparison to those who did not take medication.

Data for 2010 showed that in England nearly 5.3 prescriptions were made for a sleeping tablet called zopiclone and 2.8 million for temazepam.

The Californian researchers said people prescribed the pills had 4.6 times more likelihood of dying than people who did not take them. 

The researchers also found that people who took sleeping tablets seemed to have an increased risk of cancer. 

Nina Barnett, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "This is an important study and although it is unlikely to radically change prescribing in the immediate term, it should raise awareness and remind both patients and prescribers to the potential risks of sedative use for insomnia."

"The association between mortality and sedation is not new and this research tells us that people who took these medicines were more likely to die than people who didn't take them. However it does not mean that the deaths were caused by the medicine." 

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