Chairs and Members of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Massachusetts Legislature
The Benzodiazepine Information Coalition asked me to send you a letter in support of Bill H.3594 that I understand you are considering.
I am a research physician. Over more than 30 years, I have studied the risks of sleeping pills in over 2 million study participants and I have published scientific papers about the risks of sleeping pills that have been cited in the medical literature over 1200 times. My nonprofit web site www.DarkSideOfSleepingPills.com has been accessed by over 100,000 people every year. Evidence about the risks of sleeping pills has been growing very rapidly in recent years, obliging me to continue speaking out. You may have noticed in today’s New York Times that opioid-related overdose deaths increased remarkably in 2016 to a new record, but you may not realize that benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine agonists seem to be joint causes of about one third of these deaths. Part of the scientific reasons are explained in my recent paper available on the internet at http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.8729.2.
The public information and warnings proposed in Bill H.3594 are very important to try to save lives. I have noted that although the FDA announced last August that benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine agonists such as the most popular sleeping pills (zolpidem, temazepam, and eszopiclone) greatly increase the risks of opiate overdoses, and the FDA said it would require “black box” warnings on the prescribing information for these medications, I have seen no black box warnings appearing on prescribing information for zolpidem or eszopiclone. This makes Bill H.3594 especially important.
Daniel F. Kripke, M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD
Daniel F. Kripke, M.D. is a licensed physician certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. He also has done research with the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center. Dr. Kripke was elected a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, co-authored hundreds of medical articles and has given invited lectures in 18 countries. In 1973, Dr. Kripke established one of the first sleep clinics in the United States. He treated patients with sleep disorders until retirement from his clinical practice at age 70. Dr. Kripke continues to be active as a researcher and as an advocate for raising awareness of the dangers associated with sleeping pills, particularly hypnotic drugs.
Dr. Kripke’s research has shown that hypnotic drugs, especially certain benzodiazepines and Z drugs with similar actions on the brain, have the potential to cause infection, depression, and are associated with increased risk of death and cancer. Dr. Kripke’s desire in joining Benzodiazepine Information Coalition is to inform the public about the grave risks of these drugs.