I am very familiar with Scripps Health, the outfit which published this “study,” and in fact I had surgery done there just last month. They are quite a good health care organization, and that is a point worth making. They are not a research organization; they are staffed with practicing doctors and nurses who cure sick people who walk in their doors.
The study followed 10,000 sleeping pill users and 23,500 non-users in Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2006. About 1 percent of non-users died during that time, compared to 6 percent of sleeping pill users. Since the medical records available for the study didn't include the cause of death, it's unclear how sleeping pill use contributed to the higher death rate.
(emphasis mine) Notice that they were working from medical records. So, do they know whether or not the sleeping pill users were taking the pills properly? They do not. Do they know whether the pill users were even taking the pills at all? They do not; they only know that prescriptions were written for the pills.
They do not know, for God’s sake, what the cause of death was. Patient Alpha was murdered by her husband when she asked him for a divorce. She had been taking Ambien for two weeks, therefor her Ambien use contributed to the death rate. Give me a break.
They say that, “the team's algorithm considered both users' and non-users' age, [blah, blah] to determine if any other conditions were contributing to the mortality rates.” Right. Did it account for the two-week user who was shot by her jealous husband? No, only actual research would do that, and knowing the actual usage and actual cause of death, you idiots.
I always love this “we had an algorithm which adjusted the data for…” No, you had an algorithm which massaged the data to produce the results you wanted it to produce. Or even if you had no preconceived result, what makes you so certain that your “algorithm” was valid?
The publisher of the study warns that sleeping pills can result in “waking up in a ‘hangover’ state, where they are at a higher risk for falls or car accidents.” Any medication has to place some responsibility on the user for proper use. If you take a sleeping pill at 2:00am and then get up at 6:00am to drive to work then you might well be at risk for a car accident. The warning labels on the medication tell you very clearly not to do that.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a vested interest, as I take Ambien regularly due to a neurological issue called Parkinson’s Disease. Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep is a common aspect of that disorder, and without the medication I would probably never dare to drive a car at all, as I would be falling asleep all day. Vested interest or not, this “study” strikes me as bogus.