Merck, the pharmaceutical company has developed a new insomnia drug that could replace leading competitors such as Ambien. Suvorexant, the new sleeping pill that the company has been developing for a decade, was proved to be safe and effective. The FDA was to approve the new drug and if the government approved suvorexant, it would be launched within a year.
Some industry analysts had described the new drug as a possible blockbuster, a term usually reserved for drugs with annual earnings of a billion dollars.
However, during an FDA presentation, suvorexant was presented as disquieting and linked to suicidal thoughts among its trial participants. There was also a risk of next-day sleepiness. Patient notes stated that a participant “had a dream that something dark approached her. The patient woke up several times and felt unable to move her arms and legs and unable to speak. Several hours later, she found herself standing at the window without knowing how she got there.” A middle-aged man had a “feeling of shadow falling over his body, hunted by enemies, hearing extremely loud screams.”
These kinds of effects and adverse events are discouraging to a drug’s sponsor. However, Merck’s marketing is likely to encourage the perception that suvorexant ends insomnia by standing in the way of a keep-awake signal, whereas a drug like Ambien knocks the user out senseless, promoting stupefying brain inactivity.
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