Objective: Prescriptions for sedative hypnotics are routinely initiated and renewed to treat insomnia, despite evidence supporting nonpharmacologic treatments as comparable and more favorable over time. We used national Veterans Health Administration data to assess patient characteristics associated with high-dose and long-term zolpidem use.
Method: The study included outpatients with new zolpidem prescriptions (January 1, 2013, to June 3, 2014). We defined high-dose use as use of doses above those recommended in the 2013 FDA safety warning (> 5 mg for women, > 10 mg for men) and defined long-term use as at least 180 days of continued supply. We fit separate logistic regression models by sex to evaluate how patient factors, adjusting for facilities, predicted high-dose and long-term use.
Results: Of 139,525 new zolpidem users, < 1% of men and 41% of women used high doses within 180 days of initiation, and 20% continued to use zolpidem long-term. Prior-year use of other sleep medications was associated with both high-dose and long-term use. Substance abuse/dependence was associated with high-dose use in women (odds ratio = 1.20, P < .001). Although long-term use was less likely in those over the age of 85 years, about 1 in 5 users aged 65 to 85 continued long-term. In both sexes, individuals of Hispanic ethnicity and nonwhite races were less likely to use long-term, whereas those with ICD-9-CM-defined psychiatric and sleep disorder diagnoses were more likely to use long-term.
Conclusions: Zolpidem use at a higher-than-recommended dose was common in women who were new zolpidem users. In both sexes, 1 in 5 users continued to use zolpidem for at least 180 days. Efforts to improve access to effective nonpharmacologic treatment alternatives may benefit from attention to subpopulations with higher risk of high-dose and long-term use.