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Phenobarbital (Phenobarbital) - Warnings and Precautions

 
 



WARNINGS

Habit Forming

Phenobarbital may be habit forming. Tolerance and psychological and physical dependence may occur with continued use (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE and Pharmacokinetics under CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY). Patients who have psychologic dependence on barbiturates may increase the dosage or decrease the dosage interval without consulting a physician and may subsequently develop a physical dependence on barbiturates. In order to minimize the possibility of overdosage or the development of dependence, the prescribing and dispensing of sedative-hypnotic barbiturates should be limited to the amount required for the interval until the next appointment. Abrupt cessation after prolonged use in a person who is dependent on the drug may result in withdrawal symptoms, including delirium, convulsions, and possibly death. Barbiturates should be withdrawn gradually from any patient known to be taking excessive doses over long periods of time (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).

Acute or Chronic Pain

Caution should be exercised when barbiturates are administered to patients with acute of chronic pain, because paradoxical excitement could be induced on important symptoms could be masked. However, the use of barbiturates as sedatives in the postoperative surgical period and as adjuncts to cancer chemotherapy is well established.

Usage in Pregnancy

Barbiturates can cause fetal damage when administered to a pregnant woman. Retrospective, case-controlled studies have suggested a connection between the maternal consumption of barbiturates and a higher than expected incidence of fetal abnormalities. Barbiturates readily cross the placental barrier and are distributed throughout fetal tissues; the highest concentrations are found in the placenta, fetal liver, and brain. Fetal blood levels approach maternal blood levels following parenteral administration.

Withdrawal symptoms occur in infants born to women who receive barbiturates throughout the last trimester of pregnancy (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).

If Phenobarbital is used during pregnancy or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus.

Usage in Children

Phenobarbital has been reported to be associated with cognitive deficits in children taking it for complicated febrile seizures.

Synergistic Effects

The concomitant use of alcohol or other CNS depressants may produce additive CNS depressants effects.

PRECAUTIONS

General

Barbiturates may be habit forming. Tolerance and psychological and physical dependence may occur with continued use (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).

Barbiturates should be administered with caution, if at all, to patients who are mentally depressed, have suicidal tendencies, or have a history of drug abuse.

Elderly or debilitated patients may react to barbiturates with marked excitement, depression, or confusion. In some persons, especially children, barbiturates repeatedly produce excitement rather than depression.

In patients with hepatic damage, barbiturates should be administered with caution and initially in reduced doses. Barbiturates should not be administered to patients showing the premonitory signs of hepatic coma.

The systemic effects of exogenous and endogenous corticosteroids may be diminished by Phenobarbital. Thus, this product should be administered with caution to patients with borderline hypoadrenal function, regardless of whether it is of pituitary or of primary adrenal origin.

Information for Patients

The following information and instructions should be given to patients receiving barbiturates.

1. The use of barbiturates carries with it an associated risk of psychological and/or physical dependence. The patient should be warned against increasing the dose of the drug without consulting a physician.

2. Barbiturates may impair the mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of potentially hazardous tasks, such as driving a car or operating machinery. The patients should be cautioned accordingly.

3. Alcohol should not be consumed while taking barbiturates. The concurrent use of the barbiturates with other CNS depressants (e.g., alcohol, narcotics, tranquilizers, and antihistamines) may result in additional CNS-depressant effects.

Laboratory Test

Prolonged therapy with barbiturates should be accompanied by periodic laboratory evaluation of organ systems, including hematopoietic, renal, and hepatic systems (see General under PRECAUTIONS and ADVERSE REACTIONS).

Drug Interactions

Most reports of clinically significant drug interactions occurring with the barbiturates have involved Phenobarbital. However, the application of this data to other barbiturates appears valid and warrants serial blood levels determinations of the relevant drugs when there are multiple therapies.

Anticoagulants

Phenobarbital lowers the plasma levels of dicumarol and causes a decrease in anticoagulant activity as measured by the prothrombin time. Barbiturates can induce hepatic microsomal enzymes resulting in increased metabolism and decreased anticoagulant response of oral anticoagulants (e.g., warfarin, acenocoumarol, dicumarol, and phenprocoumon). Patients stabilized on anticoagulant therapy may require dosage adjustments if barbiturates are added to or withdrawn from their dosage regimen.

Corticosteroids

Barbiturates appear to enhance the metabolism of exogenous corticosteroids, probably through the induction of hepatic microsomal enzymes. Patients stabilized on corticosteroid therapy may require dosage adjustments if barbiturates are added to or withdrawn from their dosage regimen.

Griseofulvin

Phenobarbital appears to interfere with the absorptions of orally administered griseofulvin, thus decreasing its blood level. The effect of the resultant decreased blood levels of griseofulvin on therapeutic response has not been established. However, it would be preferable to avoid concomitant administration of these drugs.

Doxycycline

Phenobarbital has been shown to shorten the half-life of doxycycline for as long as 2 weeks after barbiturate therapy is discontinued. This mechanism is probably through the induction of hepatic microsomal enzymes that metabolize the antibiotic. If Phenobarbital and doxycycline are administered concurrently, the clinical response to doxycycline should be monitored closely.

Phenytoin, Sodium Valproate, Valproic Acid

The effect of barbiturates on the metabolism of phenytoin appears to be variable. Some investigators report an accelerating effect, whereas others report no effect. Because the effect of barbiturates on the metabolism of phenytoin is not predictable, phenytoin and barbiturate blood levels should be monitored more frequently if these drugs are given concurrently. Sodium valproate and valproic acid increase the Phenobarbital serum levels; therefore, Phenobarbital blood levels should be closely monitored and appropriate dosage adjustments made as clinically indicated.

CNS Depressants

The concomitant use of other CNS depressants, including other sedatives or hypnotics, antihistamines, tranquilizers, or alcohol, may produce additive depressants, including other sedatives or hypnotics, antihistamines, tranquilizers, or alcohol, may produce additive depressants effects.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs prolong the effects of barbiturates, probably because metabolism of the barbiturate is inhibited.

Estradiol, Estrone, Progesterone, and other Steroidal Hormones

Pretreatment with or concurrent administration of Phenobarbital may decrease the effect of estradiol by increasing its metabolism. There have been reports of patients treated with antiepileptic drugs (e.g., phenobarbital) who become pregnant while taking oral contraceptives. An alternate contraceptive method might be suggested to women taking Phenobarbital.

Carcinogenesis

Animal Data

Phenobarbital sodium is carcinogenic in mice and rats after lifetime administration. In mice, it produced benign and malignant liver cell tumors. In rats, benign liver cell tumors were observed very late in life.

Human Data

In a 29-year epidemiologic study of 9,136 patients who were treated on an anticonvulsant protocol that included Phenobarbital, results indicated a higher than normal incidence of hepatic carcinoma. Previously, some of these patients had been treated with thorotrast, a drug which is known to produce hepatic carcinomas. Thus, this study did not provide sufficient evidence that Phenobarbital sodium is carcinogenic in humans.

A retrospective study of 84 children with brain tumors matched to 73 normal controls and 78 cancer controls (malignant disease other than brain tumors) suggested an association between exposure to barbiturates prenatally and an increased incidence of brain tumors.

Usage in Pregnancy

Teratogenic Effects

Pregnancy Category D

See Usage in Pregnancy under WARNINGS.

Nonteratogenic Effects

Reports of infants suffering from long-term barbiturate exposure in utero included the acute withdrawal syndrome of seizures and hyperirritability from birth to a delayed onset of up to 14 days (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE).

Labor and Delivery

Hypnotic doses of barbiturates do not appear to impair uterine activity significantly during labor. Full anesthetic doses of barbiturates decrease the force and frequency of uterine contractions. Administration of sedative-hypnotic barbiturates to the mother during labor may result in respiratory depression in the newborn. Premature infants are particularly susceptible to the depressant effects of barbiturates. If barbiturates are used during labor and delivery, resuscitation equipment should be available.

Data are not available to evaluate the effect of barbiturates when forceps delivery or other intervention is necessary or to determine the effect of barbiturates on the later growth, development, and functional maturation of the child.

Nursing Mothers

Caution should be exercised when Phenobarbital is administered to a nursing woman, because small amounts of barbiturates are excreted in the milk.

Page last updated: 2011-07-09

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