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Novel class of medications, orexin receptor antagonists, in the treatment of insomnia – critical appraisal of suvorexant

Authors Norman J, Anderson S

Received 29 April 2016

Accepted for publication 18 June 2016

Published 14 July 2016 Volume 2016:8 Pages 239—247

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NSS.S76910

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Prof. Dr. Roumen Kirov

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Steven Shea

Jessica L Norman, Sarah L Anderson

Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Colorado, Aurora, CO, USA

Abstract: Insomnia, a highly prevalent disorder, can be detrimental to patients’ overall health and worsen existing comorbidities. Patients may have acute episodes of insomnia related to a traumatic event, but more commonly insomnia occurs chronically. While proper sleep hygiene and behavioral therapy play important roles in the nonpharmacologic management of short-term and chronic insomnia, medications may also be required. Historically, insomnia has been treated with agents such as benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepine receptor agonists, and melatonin agonists. Dual orexin receptor antagonists represent a new class of medications for the treatment of insomnia, which block the binding of wakefulness-promoting neuropeptides orexin A and orexin B to their respective receptor sites. Suvorexant (Belsomra) is the first dual orexin receptor antagonist to be approved in the US and Japan and has demonstrated efficacy in decreasing time to sleep onset and increasing total sleep time. Its unique mechanism of action, data to support efficacy and safety over 12 months of use, and relative lack of withdrawal effects when discontinued may represent an alternative for patients with chronic insomnia who cannot tolerate or do not receive benefit from more traditional sleep agents. Suvorexant is effective and well tolerated, but precautions exist for certain patient populations, including females, obese patients, and those with respiratory disease. Suvorexant has only been studied vs placebo, and hence it is unknown how it directly compares with other medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for insomnia. Suvorexant is not likely to replace benzodiazepines or nonbenzodiazepine receptor antagonists as a first-line sleep agent but does represent a novel option for the treatment of patients with chronic insomnia.

Keywords: insomnia, orexin antagonist, suvorexant

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