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Do sleeping pills kill Indians or is it insomnia that kills them?

There are lots of stories in India this morning based on the  Open BMJ article suggesting higher rates of premature death amongst those who use sleeping pills. Look at this wire service story in the Times of India as a case in point It’s an example of what happens when stories are covered by journalists who don’t keep track of the evolution of health stories. A recent study that didn’t benefit from a BMA press release, showed a link between short duration of sleep and premature death (here it is . Guess what, it was a five-fold increase: identical to the increase seen amongst those using the highest dose of sleeping pills. It’s a fair bet that patients are using the highest dose because they have the most trouble sleeping and seems even more likely since the BMJ study sees no difference in mortality between those using different kinds of sleeping pills. Old-fashioned, single-subject health correspondents used to spot these things.

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