A spokesperson for Sanofi-Aventis, maker of Ambien, said today: "We are aware of reports of people driving while sleepwalking, and those reports have been provided to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as part of our ongoing post-marketing evaluation about the safety of the products." This somnambulant statement was in response to published reports that Ambien-related driving arrests are increasing faster than Google’s stock price. In fact, many drivers who have been arrested for unsafe driving later said they had no memory of taking the wheel after taking the drug.
Sanofi-Aventis could have a major crisis on its hands if it continues to sit in the passenger seat rather than taking the wheel on this issue. So, instead of issuing watered-down statements about following protocols, they should instead be suggesting a blue-ribbon panel be created to investigate the incidents.
With more than 26 million Ambien prescriptions written last year, the company has a legal, moral and ethical responsibility to open an investigation. Plus, it would be a smart corporate responsibility move on their part.
Sadly, though, it seems the company will follow the lead of so many of its peers and remain in that never-never land between sleeping and being fully awake. Corporate communications professionals need to step up in situations like these and counsel senior management (and the legal beagals) about the tremendous brand damage a do-nothing approach might cause. All they’d have to do is ask a few former marketing people from Arthur Andersen who, in the wake of the Enron meltdown, waited too long and said too little in their defense. The corporate graveyard is littered with the corpses of organizations who may have "won" in court but "lost" in the court of public opinion.