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FDA Approves First Insomnia Drug for Middle-of-the-Night Waking Followed By Difficulty Returning to Sleep

SILVER SPRING, Md., Nov. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Intermezzo (zolpidem tartrate sublingual tablets) for use as needed to treat insomnia characterized by middle-of-the-night waking followed by difficulty returning to sleep.  


This is the first time the FDA has approved a drug for this condition. Intermezzo should only be used when a person has at least four hours of bedtime remaining. It should not be taken if alcohol has been consumed or with any other sleep aid.

Insomnia is a common condition in which a person has trouble falling or staying asleep. It can range from mild to severe, depending on how often it occurs and for how long. Insomnia can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and lack of energy. It also can make a person feel anxious, depressed, or irritable. People with insomnia may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning, and remembering.

Zolpidem tartrate was first approved in the United States in 1992 as the drug Ambien.  Intermezzo is a lower dose formulation of zolpidem. The recommended and maximum dose of Intermezzo is 1.75 milligrams for women and 3.5 mg for men, taken once per night. The recommended dose for women is lower because women clear zolpidem from the body at a lower rate than men.

"For people whose insomnia causes them to wake in middle of the night with difficulty returning to sleep, this new medication offers a safer choice than taking a higher dose of zolpidem upon waking," said Robert Temple, M.D., deputy center director for clinical science in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "With this lower dose there is less risk of a person having too much drug in the body upon waking, which can cause dangerous drowsiness and impair driving."

Intermezzo was studied in two clinical trials involving more than 370 patients. In the studies, patients taking the drug had a shorter time to fall back asleep after waking compared to people taking an inactive pill (placebo). The most commonly reported adverse reactions in the clinical trials were headache, nausea and fatigue.

Like other sleep medicines, Intermezzo may cause serious side effects, including getting out of bed while not fully awake and doing an activity that you do not know you are doing or do not remember having done. Reported activities while under the influence of sleep medicines include driving a car, making and eating food, having sex, talking on the phone, and sleep walking—without knowing at the time or remembering later. Chances of such activity increase if a person has consumed alcohol or taken other medicines that make them sleepy.  

Intermezzo is a federally controlled substance because it can be abused or lead to dependence.

Intermezzo is made by Transcept Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Port Richmond, Calif.

For information:

FDA: Approved Drugs: Questions and Answers:

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Media Inquiries: Sandy Walsh, 301-796-4669,
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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