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On the way, a sleeping pill that promises no side effects and targets the ROOT cause of insomniaDORA-22 works in a different way to existing sleeping pillsIt could usher in 'new era for insomnia treatment' say expertsThe NHS currently spends 50million a year on sleeping pills
00:31 GMT, 4 April 2013
06:56 GMT, 4 April 2013
A pill which promises a good night’s sleep without side-effects could be on its way.
The drug, which has already been successfully tested on animals, could allow people to sleep soundly at night and wake up without the groggy feeling that blights many other tablets.
Billed as ‘a good night’s sleep without the side-effects’, the tablet, which is known only as DORA-22, works in a different way to the existing pills taken by millions of Britons.
Soundly sleeping: Billed as a good nights sleep without the side-effects, the tablet, which is known only as DORA-22, works in a different way to the existing pills taken by millions of Britons (file picture)
It and similar drugs could ‘usher in a new era for insomnia treatment’ the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.
Some 15million prescriptions for sleeping pills are written out each year and although newer drugs produce fewer side-effects patients can still experience problems with concentration and grogginess.
Concerns that Britain has become a nation of sleeping pill addicts has led to doctors being urged to first try alternative treatments such as counselling.
Most of the 50million a year spent by the NHS on sleeping pills, or hypnotics, as they are known to doctors, goes on drugs that target a calming brain chemical called GABA.
Insomnia: Some 15million prescriptions for sleeping pills are written out each year (file picture)
In contrast, DORA-22 works on orexin, a brain compound that helps keep us awake.
In tests, rats given the drug slept longer than those given a dummy pill.
And after being given the drug, the creatures remained free of the memory problems that affected rats given Valium or one of two more modern sleeping pills.
Similarly, monkeys given the other pills suffered problems with memory and alertness.
However, DORA-22 was free of those problems and did not impact on reaction times, even when given at extremely high doses.
The pharmaceutical giant, Merck, which is developing the drug, said that the tests mimicked a situation in which someone would wake up shortly after taking a sleeping pill. It added that more work is needed to check that the pill doesn’t cause grogginess the next morning.
DORA-22 is only being used in lab tests at the moment.
However, another drug in the same family has been tested on people and is very close to the market.
An accompanying article, also in the journal Science Translational Medicine, says that such tablets could usher in a new era for insomnia treatment.
However, the commentary’s author, a sleep researcher from Stanford University in the US, also urges caution, saying that the search for the perfect sleeping pill has been ‘marked by cycles of exuberance followed by disappointment, as adverse side-effects have emerged following widespread use’.
He adds that only time will tell if DORA-22, and similar drugs, are ‘the perfect hypnotics’.
Professor Colin Espie, founder of the sleep centre at Glasgow University, warned that tampering with orexin might produce other side-effects such as an increase in appetite.
He added that the real challenge will be to find a pill that gets to the root cause of insomnia, rather than merely being a quick fix.
Good morning: The drug, which has already been successfully tested on animals, could allow people to sleep soundly at night and wake up without the groggy feeling that blights many other tablets (file picture)