Sleeping medicines data

Request dated 04 March 2019 for information relating to sleeping pill medications.

April 8, 2019

[Name redacted]

[Email redacted]

Dear [Name redacted],


Thank you for your request dated 04 March 2019 under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) for information relating to sleeping pill medications.  You requested a breakdown of the five most-commonly prescribed, fully funded sleeping pill medications over the past three years.

There are a number of medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Schedule that can be used for assisting sleep. For the purposes of responding to your request we have considered pharmaceuticals under the heading of “Sedatives and Hypnotics”. Other medicines could also be used for sleep (for example, tricyclic antidepressants and sedating antihistamines).

The pharmaceuticals under the Sedatives and Hypnotics heading may be used for therapeutic uses other than sleep (for example, anxiety) and we do not have data to confirm the reason for prescription. The exception to this is melatonin which is restricted by Special Authority to the treatment of certain types of insomnia in children.

Taking these considerations into account, we have defined the “five most-commonly prescribed sleeping pill medications” as zopiclone, triazolam, temazepam, melatonin and nitrazepam. All except triazolam are fully funded. Triazolam is a partly-subsidized medication. If there are other specific medications you would like information on, please let us know by name.

We are able to provide you with the information that you requested, which was:

  • The number of prescriptions and number of patients per medication
  • The gross cost to PHARMAC for each medication per year
  • The number of prescriptions per funding DHB per year
  • A breakdown by age group and gender

This information is contained in the attached table. [XLSX, 19 KB] Please note that melatonin was only listed on the Pharmaceutical Schedule from 1 July 2017, and therefore our data only reflects usage from this point onwards.

The information provided is community use and does not include hospital use. You asked for the gross cost to PHARMAC, but the combined pharmaceutical budget is held by DHBs and managed by PHARMAC, and the information provided reflects that.  Please note that PHARMAC’s data only relates to publicly subsidized dispensing.  PHARMAC has no records relating to sales in the private market.

Please be aware that we may publish our response to you on our website.

We trust that the provision of this information answers your queries, if you have any further questions please feel free to contact us again.

Yours sincerely

[Alison Hill's signature] 

Alison Hill
Director, Engagement and Implementation