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I was injured in a one-vehicle car accident in Des Moines. I may have fallen asleep at the wheel because I crashed into a tree. I had taken Ambien the night before the crash, but felt fully awake and able to drive the next morning. What happened? Did Ambien cause my accident?

Ambien (zolpidem), a popular sleep medication, is one of the top ten drugs found in impaired drivers. However, many of these drivers were not aware that Ambien can cause a car crash risk even after a good night of sleep.

In January of this year, the FDA warned that patients taking Ambien and other zolpidem-containing drugs had a high risk of next day car crashes. The warning came more than 700 reports of next-morning car accidents for patients taking Ambien.

Doctors know that blood levels of Ambien above 50 ng/mL can result in impaired driving behaviors and an increased risk of car accidents. Ambien is supposed to have a short half-life, so it leaves the body quickly. But this isn’t always true. Women sometimes metabolize zolpidem more slowly. When researchers gave 250 men and 250 women 10 mg doses of Ambien, as many as 15 percent of the women and 3 percent of the men still had at least 50 ng/mL of Ambien in their blood after eight hours of sleep. That means that drug levels could be high enough to interfere with alertness and coordination the morning after taking the pill; this might explain the frequency of Ambien car crashes.

Those who took extended-release Ambien CR were even more likely to suffer next day impairment. Among patients who given 12.5 mg doses of Ambien CR, 33 percent of women and 25 percent of men had 50 ng/mL or more of Ambien in their blood 8 hours after taking the medication. Five percent of patients had more blood levels greater than 100 ng/mL.

The FDA recommended that the standard dose of Ambien be reduced in order to prevent Ambien car crashes:

  • The recommended dose of Ambien and similar products was reduced from 10 mg to 5 mg for women, and 5 mg or 10 mg for men.
  • The recommended dose of extended-release Ambien CR was reduced from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg for women, and 6.25 mg or 12.5 mg for men.

If you took Ambien and were injured in a car accident the next morning, you may be able to participate in a lawsuit against Sanofi-Aventis, the manufacturer of the drug. For more information about Iowa Ambien lawsuits, contact the Des Moines pharmaceutical injury attorneys at Hupy and Abraham at 888-807-2752.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham