Ambien Lawsuit

Millions of people across the world suffer from insomnia, whether it’s short-term or chronic. Because insomnia can cause a number of different problems, from poor job and school performance to an increased risk of accidents or even health problems, it’s no wonder that millions rely on Ambien to ensure that they can sleep. Unfortunately, the usage of Ambien has been linked to side effects like somnambulance and memory loss.

Sanofi-Aventis is now facing lawsuits by plaintiffs claiming that they were sleepwalking and performing other actions under the influence of Ambien that they weren’t aware of and wouldn’t have done if it hadn’t been for taking the insomnia medication. If you have taken Ambien and as a result have suffered severe side effects such as a health complication or performed unusual actions due to somnambulance, then you may have a case against Sanofi-Aventis.

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What Is Ambien?

Ambien is a prescription sleeping aid medication that contains zolpidem, a non-benzodiazepine sedative. It is a controlled substance that is intended to be used for short-term insomnia but may result in a number of side effects including memory loss, sleep-walking, dependence, and withdrawal. 

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that prevents those who have it from easily falling asleep and staying asleep.

People with insomnia can experience the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Inability to go back to sleep
  • Feeling tired after waking up

How Long Does Insomnia Last?

There are two types of insomnia: acute insomnia and chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia is short-term insomnia which can last for days or even as long as weeks. Chronic insomnia is long-term insomnia which can last for months or even longer.

What Causes Insomnia?

Short-term, or acute, insomnia may be caused by a specific event, such as stress or trauma.

Chronic insomnia can be caused by the following:

  • Stress (about work, school, family, finances, etc.)
  • Stressful or traumatic life event
    • Job loss
    • Death
    • Illness
    • Divorce
    • And more
  • Travel
    • Crossing time zones (jet lag)
  • Work schedule
    • Early shift
    • Late shift
    • Changing shifts
  • Eating too much too close to bedtime, which can cause:
    • Heartburn
    • Physical discomfort while lying down
  • Poor sleep habits
    • Napping
    • Irregular sleep schedules
    • Stimulation right before bed
    • Uncomfortable environment
    • Screen time right before bed
  • Mental health problems
    • Anxiety
    • PTSD
    • Depression
  • Medications
    • Antidepressants
    • Asthma medication
    • Blood pressure medication
    • Pain relievers
    • Allergy and cold medications
    • Weight loss products
  • Medical conditions
    • Chronic pain
    • GERD
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Overactive thyroid
  • Sleep disorders
    • Sleep apnea
    • Restless leg syndrome
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol

Who Is More at Risk of Insomnia?

Teens and children may be more likely to develop insomnia because their internal clocks are delayed. Their natural sleep schedule may require that they go to sleep later and wake up later. However, school schedules typically begin earlier in the day, which may result in teens and children not getting enough sleep.

Older adults may also be more at risk for insomnia because they may take more medications, have health issues, and experience changes to sleep and activity levels than younger adults.

The people who are at the most risk of developing insomnia are:

  • Older adults
  • Women
  • Those under stress
  • People with physical health conditions
  • People suffering from a mental health disorder
  • Those without a regular schedule

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

The symptoms of insomnia may include:

  • Trouble falling asleep at night
  • Waking too early in the morning
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • You don’t feel well-rested after a full night’s sleep
  • Sleepiness or tiredness during the day
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Worrying about sleep
  • Increased errors
  • Increased accidents

What Are the Complications of Insomnia?

There are reasons why millions of people across the United States take Ambien or another form of zolpidem to treat insomnia.

A sleep disorder can lead to sleepiness during the day which may result in:

  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Increased risk of accidents due to a slower reaction time
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Increased risk of health conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Increased severity of health conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease

How Does Ambien Work?

Ambien functions as a sedative and affects the brain chemicals which may be keeping people suffering from insomnia awake. There are two types of Ambien: immediate-release and extended-release. 

What Are the Types of Ambien?

The immediate-release version of Ambien is designed to help those who take it fall asleep in the first place. The extended-release version has a quickly dissolving outer layer designed to help people fall asleep and then an inner layer, which dissolves slowly, which is meant to help people stay asleep.

Is Ambien Available Over the Counter?

Ambien is not available over the counter in the United States. Ambien must be prescribed by a doctor and is considered a controlled substance (C-IV).

Who Manufactures Ambien?

Ambien is manufactured by French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis and has been among the most prescribed sleeping pills in the U.S. since it became available in 1992. A number of individuals who took Ambien and experienced severe and unexpected side effects filed lawsuits against Sanofi-Aventis citing occurrences of irregular behavior, drug addiction and withdrawal, and other injuries which were caused by the medication.

What Are the Risks of Taking Ambien?

The onset of sleepiness after taking Ambien is rapid and has required the manufacturer to emphasize that the medication should be taken directly before going to bed. Patients have also reported that the medication does not wear off in time, resulting in daytime grogginess, but the most troublesome effects of Ambien appear to be in unexpected behaviors and memory loss that may occur.

Ambien users may appear to wake up and perform activities such as driving, eating, or other behaviors that they fail to remember in the morning. This has resulted in a number of notable “celebrity” events including car accidents and social media discussions that have caused injury, legal consequences or embarrassment.

What Are the Side Effects of Ambien?

Ambien side effects can range from mild to severe. Some of the side effects associated with this drug may be made worse by the consumption of alcohol or mixing sleep medications. It is highly recommended that individuals abstain from alcohol and the use of other sleep aids while taking Ambien.

What Are the Common Side Effects of Ambien?

Common side effects of taking Ambien include:

  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth

Though drowsiness and dizziness are expected effects of using Ambien, they may persist after the medication is expected to have worn off. In most cases, common side effects are mild and will go away with time, but care should be taken until the user becomes accustomed to the medication.

What Are the Severe Side Effects of Ambien?

The more severe side effects of taking Ambien may include:

  • CNS depression such as next-day impairment
  • Abnormal thoughts and behavior
  • Sleepwalking
  • Memory loss
  • Dependence and withdrawal

How Does Ambien Cause Sleepwalking?

Somnambulism is the term used to describe sleepwalking. Somnambulists, or sleepwalkers, may engage in complex physical tasks while remaining in a sleeping state. Ambien side effects like sleepwalking can potentially be extremely dangerous, both to the sleepwalker and others.

Ambien may cause a state of semi arousal. In a state of semi arousal, those who take Ambien may be partially awakened by outside stimuli but are unable to fully awaken due to the drug’s sedative effects. As a result, sleepwalking may occur.

What Sleepwalking Activities Can Occur With Ambien?

There are reported cases of people cooking meals, wrecking cars, and even committing thefts following the consumption of Ambien.

Somnambulism activities after taking Ambien have included:

  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep driving
  • Sleep eating
  • Irrational speech
  • Social media use
  • Other activities

What Notable Ambien Sleepwalking Events Have Occurred?

Several notable celebrities have become embroiled in controversies that were later blamed on the use of Ambien. For example, Elon Musk has blamed Ambien for erratic public declarations like stating that he was considering making Tesla public. Roseanne Barr blamed Ambien after making tweets that were interpreted as racism, causing Sanofi, the manufacturer of Ambien, to issue a statement that racism was not a side effect of any of their products. Tiger Woods was arrested for a DUI after taking Ambien, while two members of the Kennedy family crashed cars and later blamed use of Ambien. Charlie Sheen trashed a hotel room and then blamed Ambien for his actions. There are many more incidences of celebrities claiming their actions were caused by Ambien.

How Many Sleepwalking Events Are Associated with Ambien?

According to a 2006 estimate, there were more claims of sleepwalking associated with Ambien than with all other sleeping aids combined. Although the scientific explanations connecting Ambien and sleepwalking are not fully established, many people who sleepwalk while taking Ambien find that the sleepwalking goes away once they discontinue usage.

How Does Ambien Cause Memory Loss?

Ambien has been linked to a type of memory loss known as anterograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia prevents the brain from successfully logging events as they happen and leads to the experience of “memory loss”.

The exact reasons for memory loss are not known but are likely connected to its effect on the GABA receptors in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory retention. Inhibition at the GABA sites on the hippocampus may prevent events from being recorded.

Memory loss associated with Ambien has often been found most likely to occur in the hours directly following Ambien consumption.

What Are Ambien’s Links to Cancer and Death?

According to a scientific study released in 2012, taking Ambien may be linked with an increased risk of death. Additionally, Ambien side effects may include a higher likelihood of developing cancer. This study looked at 10,529 individuals who were taking sleeping pills. Many of these people were taking Ambien. The study compared the mortality rate of these sleeping pill consumers to a control group of 23,676 people who were not taking any sleeping pills.

The study found that those who consumed as little as 18 sleeping pills a year were 3.6 times more likely to suffer death. Additionally, the group of people who consumed the largest amount of sleeping pills was 35 percent more likely to develop cancer over the course of the study. This research, as well as other sometimes severe Ambien side effects, has led to a number of personal injury lawsuits.

Is There an FDA Warning for Ambien?

When Ambien was first approved, the approved dosage for all adults was 10mg per night with an option to repeat the dosage for a total of 20mg in one night, but in 2012, after numerous reports of somnambulance, memory loss, and dependence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required changes to labeling and dosage instruction.

Dosages were reduced to include instructions for men and women and warnings about potential behaviors and drug dependence.

Recommended dosage instructions now include:

  • 5mg for women, 5 or 10mg for men taken only once per night immediately before bed, and only when at least 7 to 8 hours are available for sleep.
  • If 5mg is not effective, nighttime dosage may be increased to 10mg but should not be repeated and should be limited to 10mg once daily.

Why Are Plaintiffs Suing Sanofi-Aventis?

In 2006, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Sanofi-Aventis, the manufacturer of Ambien. More than 500 plaintiffs alleged that they had performed actions under the influence of Ambien, such as binge-eating or had even driven and been arrested, that they wouldn’t have otherwise done if not taking the medication. These cases were joined together in a class action lawsuit against Sanofi-Aventis. These lawsuits did not result in financial compensation for the plaintiffs, but their case was the reason the FDA revisited Ambien and placed more stringent warnings on the medication with dosage reductions.

What Ambien Lawsuits Are There?

In 2019, Colette Murray filed a lawsuit against Portland State University for prescribing Ambien to her son, who died after taking it. She claimed that the university health clinic had a history of overprescribing medication and had done so in her son’s case, prescribing Ambien without taking his medical history into account and also failing to warn him of the risks associated with taking Ambien. No settlements or results of this Ambien lawsuit have been announced.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.