Sleeping Pill Side Effects May Pose Risks for Heart Failure Patients: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that individuals with a history of heart failure should avoid taking sleeping pills, as the drugs may increase the risk of serious cardiovascular problems.  

Researchers from Japan warn that side effects of sleeping drugs may increase the risk of cardiovascular events by a factor of eight, according to findings presented at the Heart Failure Congress in Athens, Greece on May 17.

The study looked at medical records for 111 heart failure patients from 2011 to 2013 at Tokyo Yamata Medical Center and tracked them for 180 days after leaving the hospital. Those who took a class of drugs known as benzodiazepine hypnotics were eight times more likely to be readmitted or die due to heart problems within 180 days.

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Benzodiazepine hypnotics are used to treat insomnia, and include medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, Doral, and others. They do not include drugs like Lunesta or Ambien.

“Sleeping problems are a frequent side effect of heart failure and it is common for patients to be prescribed sleeping pills when they are discharged from the hospital,” lead author Dr. Masahiko Setoguchi, noted. “Cardiac function of heart failure patients worsens with repeated hospitalizations. We therefore decided it was important to investigate the relationships between drugs prescribed at discharge, rehospitalisation and cardiovascular events in heart failure patients.”

Setoguchi and his team concluded that benzodiazepine hypnotics may have cardiodepressant actions. They also said the findings suggest that there may also be some respiratory depressant side effects from the drugs, which can worsen breathing problems like sleep apnea; negatively affecting the patient’s health.

The findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, come just days after the FDA issued a drug safety communication warning that it was reducing the recommended starting dose of the sleeping medication Lunesta.

The FDA warned that Lunesta could continue to impair users the next day, potentially causing impaired driving and other risks.

Lunesta belongs to a class of sleeping aids known as non-benzodiazepines and was not one of those linked to increased heart risks.

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