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Stilnox side-effects 'worse in Australia'

7.21.2017 | Jennifer Bargeman
Stilnox side-effects 'worse in Australia'

The sleeping tablet has been available in Australia since 1996 and the Therapeutic Goods Administration says it has been issuing warnings about its side effects for about five years.

Michael Yarwood stated: "Under the hypnotic and mind altering nature of the drug, I destroyed my family, a highly successful 18 year career as a lawyer.".

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Almost 50 s, as well as numerous phone calls and letters were received in one day as a result of the story.

Australians seem to be more seriously affected than others, TGA national manager Rohan Hammett told a Senate estimates committee today.

That could be put down to a number of issues.

Responses to death of Mairead Costigan. As well, additional warnings have been placed on every packet of Stilnox and the size of individual Stilnox packets have also been reduced.

The bizarre and sometimes dangerous side effects of the sleeping pill Stilnox are far more serious in Australia than in other countries, a parliamentary committee has heard.

Maggie Scott wrote: "I have used this drug safely and successfully for occasional use over the last four years or more I would be reluctant to see Stilnox removed from the market compley as it has always worked for me when I have needed it without side effects of any kind.".

Stories from Herald readers describing their own experiences with Stilnox flooded in as a result, some stating Stilnox had affected them similarly, others claiming it was a useful drug that was being unfairly criticised.

The TGA's adverse drug reactions advisory committee is keeping a close eye on the side effects of Stilnox.

"The reports of abnormal sleep behaviour, that are the focus of media attention, appear to be much more common in Australia than other countries.".

Susan Conyers described taking a single Stilnox pill in 2003, and then having a shower.

Mr Hammett's comments come on the back of a Herald story that described the death of Mairead Costigan, a philosophy graduate who died after falling from the Sydney Harbour Bridge during what her family claims was a Stilnox-influenced sleepwalking event.

"Interestingly, we're not seeing nearly the same profile of side effects of Stilnox in other countries as we're seeing in Australia," Dr Hammett said.

The TGA has also been working closely with its international regulatory counterparts to examine the side effects scientifically, he said.

With Stilnox, the insomnia disappeared after a couple of weeks and now I only need it very occasionally - once every six weeks or so. Michelle Heeter wrote: "It saved my sanity when I was suffering from insomnia.

"Is that because we have a very good reporting system here in Australia and our health-care professionals and our community know that they can report these adverse reactions? That's certainly a strong possibility," he said.

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AAP and Dylan Welch.

Callers to a national hotline for Stilnox users have reported incidents such as crashing cars, having sex, fighting and binge-eating while apparently asleep.

"Or is the recent focus in the media on this somehow affecting the reporting pattern in Australia?".

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"The next morning I woke up with my phone next to my pillow - it turns out I sent my partner several text messages describing the funny colours I could see while hallucinating on Stilnox.".

"When I got out of the shower, the walls appeared to be shaking and my flatmate recommended I go to bed after I said some strange things," she wrote.

"Unfortunay, with all the sensationalistic media coverage of a tiny minority of cases, many doctors, including my own, now refuse to prescribe it.".