Background: Zolpidem is an omega 1 specific indirect GABA agonist that is used for insomnia, but may have efficacy in brain damage. The long term efficacy of zolpidem in the permanent vegetative state is described in three patients.
Method: Two motor vehicle accident patients and one near drowning patient, all of them in the permanent vegetative state for at least three years, were rated according to the Glasgow Coma and Rancho Los Amigos scale before and after zolpidem application. Long term response to daily application of this drug was monitored for 3–6 years.
Results: All patients were aroused transiently every morning after zolpidem. Glasgow Coma Scale scores ranged from 6–9/15 before to 10–15/15 after zolpidem. Rancho Los Amigos Cognitive scores ranged from I–II before to V–VII afterward. Drug efficacy did not decrease and there were no long term side effects after 3–6 years daily use.
Conclusion: Zolpidem appears an effective drug to restore brain function to some patients in the permanent vegetative state.