Magic bullets for insomnia? Patients' use and experiences of newer (Z drugs) versus older (benzodiazepine) hypnotics for sleep problems in primary care.Br J Gen Pract 2008; 58(551):417-22BJ
Little is known about patients' perceptions of newer hypnotics.
To investigate use, experience, and perceptions of Z drug and benzodiazepine hypnotics in the community.
DESIGN OF STUDY
Cross-sectional survey of general practice patients who had received at least one prescription for a Z drug or benzodiazepine in the previous 6 months.
Self-administered postal questionnaire.
Of 1600 surveys posted, 935 (58.4%) responses were received, of which 705 (75.4%) were from patients taking drugs for insomnia. Of those 705 patients, 87.9% (n = 620) were first prescribed a hypnotic by their GP, and 94.9% (n = 669) had taken a sleeping tablet for 4 weeks or more. At least one side effect was reported in 41.8% (n = 295); 18.6% wished to come off hypnotic medication; and 48.5% had tried to stop treatment. Patients on Z drugs were more likely to express a wish to stop (22.7% versus 12.3%; odds ratio [OR] = 1.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.13 to 2.49), or to have attempted to come off medication, than those on benzodiazepines (52.4% versus 41.0%; OR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.12 to 2.12). The two groups did not differ significantly in respect of benefits or adverse effects.
There were no significant differences in patients' perceptions of efficacy or side-effects reported by those on Z drugs compared to patients taking benzodiazepines. Side-effects were commonly reported, which may have contributed to a high proportion of responders, particularly patients on Z drugs who were wishing to stop, or who had previously tried to stop taking this medication. Reported prescribing practices were often at variance with the licence for short-term use.