Dawn of the Sleepeaters
One More Thing To Keep Us Up At Night
see "Medication Causing Sleep Binges?" (ABC News, 3/15/06)
and "Study links Ambien use to unconscious food forays" (NY Times via Int'l Herald Tribune, 3/14/06)
Guest Posting by Mike DePinto
The lawyers have found another ridiculous way to increase our health care costs. On March 6th, about 100 people filed a class action suit against Sanofi-Aventis, maker of the widely popular drug Ambien, claiming such side-effects as “sleepeating”. Why is it that patients are filing a case against the drug maker now? The answer of course is money.
Doctors prescribed Ambien over 26 million times last year. The drug has proved to be safe and effective for over fifteen years. The allegations of those involved seem exceptionally weak. The lead lawyer in the class action suit, Susan Chana Lask, said, “Out of 26 million users, 1 percent is a large number and if they’re out there driving and hitting people ? multiply that times two.” News flash - driving while taking sleeping pills is a bad idea. Anyone driving after popping an Ambien should go to jail for a DUI not suing the manufacturer. If the lawyer believes people get out of bed and get in their cars after taking the sleeping pill, she should disclose her scientific proof. Other claims show an amazing lack of individual responsibility. One of the plaintiffs, Janet Makinen, took Ambien and experienced sleepwalking and sleepeating for six years before consulting her doctor who told her to stop taking it.
Sanofi-Aventis knew about these issues, and like a responsible company should, put warnings in the literature distributed with each bottle of the drug. Not only were people warned, but doctors have found that in most of the cases investigated, the user did not follow directions either by taking it while driving, using alcohol, or ingesting more than the recommended dosage.
This case will undoubtedly cost Sanofi-Aventis millions in legal fees, lost sales, and bad publicity. As is always the case, those expenses will filter back to the consumer in the form of higher drug prices. Other lawyers have already set up websites claiming that “If you or a loved one has overdosed or if a loved one has died while taking Ambien” you may have a case. (Knifes have the potential to kill if used improperly also; is a class action suit in the works?)
If the lawsuit lottery has any hope of subsiding, judges must summarily dismiss cases where the user abuses the drug or blatantly disregards the directions. Plaintiffs should have the burden of showing a reasonable possibility of negligence on the part of the company as a first step. Unforeseeable side effects of well-tested and federally approved drugs should not land companies in court. In this case, Sanofi-Aventis warned its customers of the possible dangers in their literature (going so far as to list “sleepiness” as a possible common side effect) and through the doctors who prescribed their product. Despite this, a drug that helps millions with few side effects will possibly disappear from the market, and a drug company will spend its money on lawyers instead of research.
[Note from Rossputin: While I agree with Mike that these sorts of lawsuits should be summarily dismissed more frequently, and that our litigious society drives up the cost of all forms of health care, I strongly doubt that this case will result in Ambien disappearing from the market.]
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