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Fiorinal with Codeine (Codeine Phosphate / Butalbital / Caffeine / Aspirin) - Description and Clinical Pharmacology



Fiorinal with Codeine (Butalbital, Aspirin, Caffeine, and Codeine Phosphate Capsules, USP) is supplied in capsule form for oral administration.

Each capsule contains the following active ingredients:

 butalbital, USP. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  50 mg
 aspirin, USP. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  325 mg
 caffeine, USP. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  40 mg
 codeine phosphate, USP. .. .. ..  30 mg

Butalbital (5-allyl-5-isobutylbarbituric acid) is a short- to intermediate-acting barbiturate. It has the following structural formula:

C11H16N2O3                                    molecular weight 224.26

Aspirin (benzoic acid, 2-(acetyloxy)-) is an analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory. It has the following structural formula:

C9H8O4                                           molecular weight 180.16

Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is a central nervous system stimulant. It has the following structural formula:

C8H10N4O2                                     molecular weight 194.19

Codeine phosphate (7,8-Didehydro-4,5α-epoxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6α-ol phosphate (1:1) (salt) hemihydrate) is a narcotic analgesic and antitussive. It has the following structural formula:

C18H24NO7P                                 anhydrous molecular weight 397.37

Inactive Ingredients: microcrystalline cellulose, pregelatinized starch, talc. Gelatin capsules contain D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Blue No. 1, FD&C Red No. 3, FD&C Yellow No. 6, gelatin, titanium dioxide. The capsules are printed with edible ink containing red iron oxide.


Fiorinal with Codeine is a combination drug product intended as a treatment for tension headache.

Fiorinal (Butalbital, Aspirin, and Caffeine Capsules, USP) consists of a fixed combination of caffeine 40 mg, butalbital 50 mg, and aspirin 325 mg. The role each component plays in the relief of the complex of symptoms known as tension headache is incompletely understood.


Bioavailability: The bioavailability of the components of the fixed combination of Fiorinal with Codeine is identical to their bioavailability when Fiorinal (Butalbital, Aspirin, and Caffeine Capsules, USP) and codeine are administered separately in equivalent molar doses.

The behavior of the individual components is described below.


The systemic availability of aspirin after an oral dose is highly dependent on the dosage form, the presence of food, the gastric emptying time, gastric pH, antacids, buffering agents, and particle size. These factors affect not necessarily the extent of absorption of total salicylates but more the stability of aspirin prior to absorption.

During the absorption process and after absorption, aspirin is mainly hydrolyzed to salicylic acid and distributed to all body tissues and fluids, including fetal tissues, breast milk, and the central nervous system (CNS). Highest concentrations are found in plasma, liver, renal cortex, heart, and lung. In plasma, about 50%-80% of the salicylic acid and its metabolites are loosely bound to plasma proteins.

The clearance of total salicylates is subject to saturable kinetics; however, first-order elimination kinetics are still a good approximation for doses up to 650 mg. The plasma half-life for aspirin is about 12 minutes and for salicylic acid and/or total salicylates is about 3 hours.

The elimination of therapeutic doses is through the kidneys either as salicylic acid or other biotransformation products. The renal clearance is greatly augmented by an alkaline urine as is produced by concurrent administration of sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate.

The biotransformation of aspirin occurs primarily in the hepatocytes. The major metabolites are salicyluric acid (75%), the phenolic and acyl glucuronides of salicylate (15%), and gentisic and gentisuric acid (1%). The bioavailability of the aspirin component of Fiorinal with Codeine is equivalent to that of a solution except for a slower rate of absorption. A peak concentration of 8.8 mcg/mL was obtained at 40 minutes after a 650 mg dose.

See OVERDOSAGE for toxicity information.


Codeine is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. It is rapidly distributed from the intravascular spaces to the various body tissues, with preferential uptake by parenchymatous organs such as the liver, spleen, and kidney. Codeine crosses the blood-brain barrier, and is found in fetal tissue and breast milk. The plasma concentration does not correlate with brain concentration or relief of pain, however, codeine is not bound to plasma proteins and does not accumulate in body tissues.

The plasma half-life is about 2.9 hours. The elimination of codeine is primarily via the kidneys, and about 90% of an oral dose is excreted by the kidneys within 24 hours of dosing. The urinary secretion products consist of free and glucuronide-conjugated codeine (about 70%), free and conjugated norcodeine (about 10%), free and conjugated morphine (about 10%), normorphine (4%), and hydrocodone (1%). The remainder of the dose is excreted in the feces.

At therapeutic doses, the analgesic effect reaches a peak within 2 hours and persists between 4 and 6 hours.

The bioavailability of the codeine component of Fiorinal with Codeine is equivalent to that of a solution. Peak concentrations of 198 ng/mL were obtained at 1 hour after a 60 mg dose.

See OVERDOSAGE for toxicity information.


Butalbital is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and is expected to distribute to most of the tissues in the body. Barbiturates, in general, may appear in breast milk and readily cross the placental barrier. They are bound to plasma and tissue proteins to a varying degree and binding increases directly as a function of lipid solubility.

Elimination of butalbital is primarily via the kidney (59%-88% of the dose) as unchanged drug or metabolites. The plasma half-life is about 35 hours. Urinary excretion products included parent drug (about 3.6% of the dose), 5-isobutyl-5-(2,3-dihydroxypropyl) barbituric acid (about 24% of the dose), 5-allyl-5(3-hydroxy-2-methyl-1-propyl) barbituric acid (about 4.8% of the dose), products with the barbituric acid ring hydrolyzed with excretion of urea (about 14% of the dose), as well as unidentified materials. Of the material excreted in the urine, 32% was conjugated.

The bioavailability of the butalbital component of Fiorinal with Codeine is equivalent to that of a solution except for a decrease in the rate of absorption. A peak concentration of 2,020 ng/mL is obtained at about 1.5 hours after a 100 mg dose.

The in vitro plasma protein binding of butalbital is 45% over the concentration range of 0.5-20 mcg/mL. This falls within the range of plasma protein binding (20%-45%) reported with other barbiturates such as phenobarbital, pentobarbital, and secobarbital sodium. The plasma-to-blood concentration ratio was almost unity indicating that there is no preferential distribution of butalbital into either plasma or blood cells.

See OVERDOSAGE for toxicity information.


Like most xanthines, caffeine is rapidly absorbed and distributed in all body tissues and fluids, including the CNS, fetal tissues, and breast milk.

Caffeine is cleared rapidly through metabolism and excretion in the urine. The plasma half-life is about 3 hours. Hepatic biotransformation prior to excretion results in about equal amounts of 1-methylxanthine and 1-methyluric acid. Of the 70% of the dose that has been recovered in the urine, only 3% was unchanged drug.

The bioavailability of the caffeine component for Fiorinal with Codeine is equivalent to that of a solution except for a slightly longer time to peak. A peak concentration of 1,660 ng/mL was obtained in less than an hour for an 80 mg dose.

See OVERDOSAGE for toxicity information.

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