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Insomnia drug’s side effects raise worries

The FDA will poll outside experts on Merck & Co.’s insomnia drug Wednesday.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The FDA will poll outside experts on Merck & Co.’s insomnia drug Wednesday.

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The FDA says an experimental Merck drug, suvorexant,­ helps patients fall asleep but has worrisome side effects, including suicidal thinking. The FDA said company trials showed the pill consistently worked better than a placebo. But patients taking higher doses had an eight-fold increase in daytime drowsiness that interfered with driving. Four women had to stop a driving test. And over 12 months, eight cases of suicidal thinking or behavior were reported. It’s possible the FDA will allow the drug to be used only in lower doses.

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