Patients who take Ambien or similar sleeping pills will soon be taking lower doses. The Food and Drug Administration is ordering drug companies to cut the dosage in half for women. The move is based on new research that shows the higher dose can cause morning drowsiness which can lead to car accidents.
A high profile case involved Robert Kennedy's daughter Kerry Kennedy. She hit a tractor-trailer on a New York highway last summer. Toxicology tests showed she had zolpidem - the chemical found in Ambien - in her system.
"Women process the drug more slowly, that's why the new rules apply to them. The FDA is also recommending lowering the doses for men, but it won't be mandatory," says Dr. Beth Malow of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Millions of Americans take Ambien and other drugs containing zolpidem to treat their insomnia. It helps them fall asleep faster.
The agency says patients should continue taking their currently prescribed dose until they can talk to their doctor.
The FDA says the extended release forms of the drugs have the highest risk for impairment the next morning.