Zolpidem is the prototype of a class of sedative hypnotic drugs that are derivatives of imidazopyridine and is sold in the United States under the trade name Ambien®. Over a four-year period, zolpidem was identified in eight cases investigated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland. Zolpidem was identified by gas chromatography-nitrogen-phosphorus detection (GC-NPD) following an alkaline extraction and was confirmed by full-scan electron impact gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Zolpidem was quantitated by GC-NPD in all specimens received. Five of the cases presented were deaths due to drug intoxication. In three of these cases, zolpidem was an incidental finding because the drug fatalities resulted from other drugs. In the other two cases of drug intoxication, zolpidem was present in elevated concentrations and was a contributing, but not exclusive cause of the drug intoxication. The remaining three cases were deaths that were not caused by drugs. The blood zolpidem concentrations in these cases were therapeutic (0.28, 0.12 and 0.19 mg/L, respectively). In six of the eight cases where both blood and urine were analyzed, the blood concentration was higher than the urine concentration. The distribution of zolpidem into the liver and kidney failed to identify any sequestration of the drug into either specimen.
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