Neylan TC, Richards A, Metzler TJ, Ruoff LM, Varbel J, O’Donovan A, Sivasubramanian M, Motraghi T, Hlavin J, Batki SL, Inslicht SS, Samuelson K, Morairty SR, Kilduff TS. Acute Cognitive Effects of the Hypocretin Receptor Antagonist Almorexant Relative to Zolpidem and Placebo: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Sleep Apr 18:zsaa080. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa080.
Hypnotic medications can adversely affect behavior during unanticipated awakenings during the night. Animals treated with the hypocretin receptor antagonist almorexant (ALM) have less acute cognitive impairment compared to the GABAA receptor modulator zolpidem (ZOL). This study aimed to determine whether ALM produces less acute cognitive impairment than ZOL in human subjects.
Healthy, young adult, unmedicated male and female subjects participated in a controlled trial of a single dose of ALM 100mg (N = 48), ALM 200mg (N = 53), ZOL 10mg (N = 49), and placebo (PBO, N = 52).
ZOL and both doses of ALM produced similar levels of subjective sleepiness and impaired the ability of subjects to remain awake in a dark, low stimulus setting relative to PBO. For most cognitive measures, performance under ZOL was significantly worse than ALM or PBO. For tasks involving verbal memory or visual-motor coordination, ZOL impaired performance, whereas the 2 doses of ALM were no different than PBO. For tasks involving higher order executive function, ZOL produced impairment in processing speed and inhibitory control, whereas the 2 doses of ALM were no different than PBO. Performance decrements for ALM were less than ZOL but greater than PBO for some reaction time measures.
The data provide support for the hypothesis that hypocretin receptor (Hcrt) antagonists produce less functional impairment than a benzodiazepine receptor agonist (BzRA). These observations are particularly relevant to patients treated with sedative-hypnotics who are at elevated risk for falls and other untoward events during the intended hours for sleep.