Nightly News   |  June 13, 2012

New sleeping pill touts fewer side effects

Merck announced results of a study indicating their new drug, suvorexant, made people fall asleep 40 percent faster and 40 percent longer than placebo without a lingering drowsy feeling upon waking. NBC’s Robert Bazell reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in health news tonight, what could be a turning point for the millions of americans who need help sleeping. this actually started with research into dogs. if approved, the treatment they are talking about here for humans could be what a lot of people have been waiting for. our chief science correspondent has the report.

>> reporter: some 60 million americans suffer from some kind of insomnia. kelly is among them. she hasn't had more than a couple hours of sleep a night in years.

>> i would try a new medication. i would try a new kind of pillow, a bed. i would try anything in order to get some sleep.

>> reporter: help may come from an unlikely source. a dog named bear who falls asleep when he tries to eat. rusty, a dachshund. both have narcolepsy, a condition that affects union. studies at stanford led to a discovery of the brain system that controls when we wake and sleep.

>> this incredibly important, really a medical breakthrough in sleep medicine . because forever we've been treating patients with insomnia with medicines that put people to sleep, where in fact with this particular medication we're blocking wakefulness.

>> all previous sleeping pills including ambien and others affect the entire central nervous system . the newer drugs affect a smaller area of the brain discovered in dogs that induces sleep. results presented today with more than 2,000 people. merck, the manufacturer, found that the new drug suvorexant made people fall asleep 40% faster and stay 40% longer than placebo. excerpts so far show they are safe, make people less drowsy than older medications. the results will go to the fda for possible approval in months. doctors say if it is approved it will take wider use to see if it's free of side effects .

>> if it does stay safe in the long run, it will be cause man's best friend delivered a clue to help a sleepless names. nbc news, new york.