The Sleeping Pill Ate My Homework

A couple of months back, US Congressman Patrick Kennedy drove
his car into a security barricade near the Capitol building early one Thursday
morning, leading many observers to think this scion of Camelot had been
throwing back a few too many at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a Capitol Hill bar where,
according to the Boston
, he’d been seen drinking earlier that evening. But, “no,” said Paddy. “I consumed no alcohol prior to the incident.” In an excuse reminiscent of ‘the dog ate my
homework,’ Kennedy said it was his
sleeping pills that did it

Over the last year or so, we’ve heard lots of similar
stories from people who allege the popular prescription sleep medication,
Ambien, caused them to sleepwalk and then injure themselves or others in a
range of ways — from automobile accidents to “sleep-overeating”. Some have even filed a class action
against Ambien maker Sanofi-Aventis for its negligent failure to
warn consumers of the adverse side effects. Of course, Ambien’s
does indicate that somnambulism, or sleepwalking, is a known risk of
the product, so it’s likely that some of these cases are legit. But, since it IS on the label, it’s hard to
imagine how they’ll prove failure to warn. Furthermore, sleepwalking is not so
that episodes among Ambien users can automatically be assumed to
be caused by the drug. It occurs in
approximately 4 percent of adults (with an estimated variance of 1 to 7
percent), while Ambien is estimated to raise that background rate by just
1 in 1,000

More importantly, ‘I’m on Ambien,’ is quickly becoming the
excuse of choice among people who want not to be blamed for their own bad
behavior. In August, Virginia driver Brian
Riley was convicted of driving under the influence after he maimed a pedestrian
while on Ambien. Riley tried to use the ‘I
can’t be held accountable for my own actions’ line, but, according to The
Washington Post
, Riley took five times the recommended dosage of the drug
and didn’t even have a prescription for it.

Now, Bob Goldberg over at the Drug Wonks blog reports that the Montel
Williams Show has been trolling various Internet chat-rooms trying to dredge up
still more of these shameless stories. Where will it end?