A new study found the use of a particular medication helped individuals suffering from insomnia and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The clinical trial assessed the use of an insomnia treatment — Lunesta (eszopiclone) — in conjunction with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, in the treatment of patients with insomnia and co-morbid GAD.

The study examined the safety and efficacy of Lunesta (eszopiclone) tablets co-administered with the antidepressant escitalopram oxalate, which is commonly used in the treatment of anxiety. Escitalopram is also known by its brand names: Cipralex, Sipralexa, and Seroplex. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant medication.

The study also evaluated the potential for co-administration of Lunesta to increase the magnitude and/or accelerate the anxiety reducing effects versus using only an antidepressant. Lunesta is the most commonly prescribed sleep aid in the U.S., with over 3 million prescriptions dispensed annually.

Lunesta works on levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is thought to be one of the brain’s chemical messengers that acts like a sedative, promoting relaxation and enhancing sleep.

“Patients suffering from insomnia may have co-existing medical and psychiatric illnesses,” said Mark H.N. Corrigan, M.D., Executive Vice President, Research and Development at Sepracor, the manufacturer of the medication.

“In fact, studies indicate that approximately ten percent of the adult population suffers from chronic insomnia, and that in approximately 80 percent of these patients, insomnia co-exists with other psychiatric and medical illnesses.

The results of this study are consistent with results of other studies of Lunesta evaluating insomnia with major depressive disorder and symptoms associated with perimenopause, which have shown that improvements in sleep can have positive effects on the co-morbid condition.”

“To my knowledge, this is the first large-scale, double-blind, randomized clinical trial published that assessed the use of an insomnia treatment in conjunction with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, in the treatment of patients with insomnia and co-morbid GAD,” said W. Vaughn McCall, M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

“In this study, patients with insomnia and co-morbid GAD who took Lunesta and escitalopram co-therapy showed improvements in measures of sleep and anxiety. Given the high incidence of insomnia symptoms co-existing with GAD, and the results seen in this clinical trial, I believe that further study of insomnia and its relationship to GAD is warranted.”

Lunesta is thought to have a high risk of abuse because of its sedative and mellowing effects. While at one time it was thought that medications like Lunesta had fewer side effects than benzodiazepines, additional research has shown that not to be the case. People taking Lunesta may be prone to dependence and tolerance, just as with other sleep aids and anti-anxiety medications. Withdrawal symptoms, when taken for a lengthy period of time, are also commonly reported.

The study was published in the May 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study was funded in part by Sepracor, the manufacturer of Lunesta.

Source: Sepracor and other sources