Warning: Prescription Sleep Aid Easy to Access Online

Zopiclone may be easily available online, highly addictive

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) In the quest for a good night's rest, many patients turn to prescription sleep aids. Now, experts are calling for stricter controls on online sales for one such drug.

According to a group of UK toxicology experts, the prescription-only international sleep aid zopiclone (brand names Zimovane, Imovane) is easily available for purchase online without a prescription. This finding is concerning considering that zopiclone is highly addictive and may cause dependence after as little as a few weeks of use, according to these experts.

"Not only do these websites bypass necessary oversight required for supply, they provide access for vulnerable people who may buy it for self poisoning, suicide or misuse," wrote lead researcher Paul I. Dargan, MD, and colleagues from the clinical toxicology department at the NHS Foundation Trust in London. "Regulatory authorities must take measures to ensure that these websites comply with medicines and other regulations for the supply of this prescription-only drug."

Zopiclone is a prescription-only drug used to treat insomnia (chronic trouble sleeping).

According to Dr. Dargan and colleagues, the use of "Z drugs" like zopiclone has recently increased. In 2013-2014, zopiclone was the sixth most common drug inquired about on TOXBASE, the UK National Poisons Information Service's online database.

The authors identified 37 websites currently selling zopiclone in quantities of up to 2,000 tablets, 35 websites selling similar drugs and 15 offering bulk purchase discounts.

Of these websites, only 24 provided information and/or warnings on dosage and only one stated that a prescription was necessary. By comparison, 22 clearly stated that a prescription was not necessary and 14 made no mention of a prescription at all.

To highlight the severity of the problem, Dr. Dargan and colleagues noted a case they recently managed in which a patient overdosed on 100 tablets of zopiclone that were reportedly purchased online without a prescription.

According to Dr. Dargan and colleagues, zopiclone was controlled in the UK in 2014 due to concerns about potential dependence and misuse. In spite of this, zopiclone is still available for purchase online without a prescription.

This letter was published Nov. 4 in the journal The BMJ.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
November 4, 2015
Last Updated:
November 5, 2015