NICE has made the following recommendations about the use of zaleplon, zolpidem and zopiclone to treat insomnia.

  • NICE recommends that doctors should consider using non-medicine treatments, and then, if they think that a hypnotic medicine is the appropriate way to treat severe insomnia that is interfering with normal daily life, they should prescribe one for only short periods of time and strictly according to the licence for the drug.
  • Because there is no firm evidence of differences in the effects of zaleplon, zolpidem, zopiclone and the shorter-acting benzodiazepines, NICE recommends that doctors should prescribe the cheapest drug, taking into account the daily dose required and the cost for each dose.
  • Treatment should only be changed from one of these hypnotics to another if side effects occur that are directly related to the medicine.
  • If treatment with one of these hypnotic medicines does not work, the doctor should not prescribe one of the others.

Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 came into force on 10 June 2014, which include specification changes for zaleplon and zopiclone. For details, see our medicines evidence commentary.