AUDIENCE: Pharmacy, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Neurology, Family Practice
ISSUE: FDA review has found that the growing combined use of opioid medicines with benzodiazepines or other drugs that depress the central nervous system (CNS) has resulted in serious side effects, including slowed or difficult breathing and deaths. Opioids are used to treat pain and cough; benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. In an effort to decrease the use of opioids and benzodiazepines, or opioids and other CNS depressants, together, FDA is adding Boxed Warnings, our strongest warnings, to the drug labeling of prescription opioid pain and prescription opioid cough medicines, and benzodiazepines. See the Drug Safety Communication, available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm518473.htm, for a listing of all approved prescription opioid pain and cough medicines, and benzodiazepines and other CNS depressants.
FDA conducted and reviewed several studies showing that serious risks are associated with the combined use of opioids and benzodiazepines, other drugs that depress the CNS, or alcohol (see the FDA Drug Safety Communication, available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm518473.htm, for a Data Summary). Based on these data, FDA is requiring several changes to reflect these risks in the opioid and benzodiazepine labeling, and new or revised patient Medication Guides. These changes include the new Boxed Warnings and revisions to the Warnings and Precautions, Drug Interactions, and Patient Counseling Information sections of the labeling.
FDA is continuing to evaluate the evidence regarding combined use of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants with medication-assisted therapy (MAT) drugs used to treat opioid addiction and dependence. FDA is also evaluating whether labeling changes are needed for other CNS depressants, and will update the public when more information is available.
BACKGROUND: Opioids are powerful prescription medicines that can help manage pain when other treatments and medicines cannot be taken or are not able to provide enough pain relief. Benzodiazepines are a class of medicines that are widely used to treat conditions including anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.
RECOMMENDATION: Health care professionalsshould limit prescribing opioid pain medicines with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants only to patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. If these medicines are prescribed together, limit the dosages and duration of each drug to the minimum possible while achieving the desired clinical effect. Warn patients and caregivers about the risks of slowed or difficult breathing and/or sedation, and the associated signs and symptoms. Avoid prescribing prescription opioid cough medicines for patients taking benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol.
Patients taking opioids with benzodiazepines, other CNS depressant medicines, or alcohol, and caregivers of these patients, should seek medical attention immediately if they or someone they are caring for experiences symptoms of unusual dizziness or lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, or unresponsiveness.
For more information visit the FDA website at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation and http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Morphine injection is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Morphine is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. It works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain.
How should this medicine be used?
Morphine injection comes as a solution (liquid) to inject intramuscularly (into a muscle) or intravenously (into a vein). It is usually injected once every 4 hours as needed. Certain morphine injection products come as a preservative-free solution that may be given intrathecally or epidurally by a healthcare professional. Use morphine injection exactly as directed.
Your doctor may adjust your dose of morphine injection during your treatment, depending on how well your pain is controlled and on the side effects that you experience. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling during your treatment with morphine injection.
If you have used morphine injection for longer than a few days, do not stop using it suddenly. If you suddenly stop using meperidine injection, you may experience withdrawal symptoms including restlessness; teary eyes; runny nose; yawning; sweating; chills; muscle, back or joint pain; widening of the pupils; irritability; anxiety; weakness; stomach cramps; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; nausea; loss of appetite; vomiting; diarrhea; fast breathing; or fast heartbeat. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before using morphine injection,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to morphine, any other medications, or ingredients in morphine injection. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: antihistamines (found in cold and allergy medications); cimetidine (Tagamet); cyclobenzaprine (Amrix); dextromethorphan (found in many cough medications; in Nuedexta); lithium (Lithobid); medications for migraine headaches such as almotriptan (Axert), eletriptan (Relpax), frovatriptan (Frova), naratriptan (Amerge), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Alsuma, Imitrex, in Treximet), and zolmitriptan (Zomig); mirtazapine (Remeron); muscle relaxants; other narcotic pain medications; sedatives; 5HT3 serotonin blockers such as alosetron (Lotronex), dolasetron (Anzemet), granisetron (Kytril), ondansetron (Zofran, Zuplenz), or palonosetron (Aloxi); selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, in Symbyax), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Brisdelle, Prozac, Pexeva), and sertraline (Zoloft); serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as desvenlafaxine (Khedezla, Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran (Savella), and venlafaxine (Effexor); sleeping pills; tramadol (Conzip, Ulltram, in Ultracet); tranquilizers; trazodone (Oleptro); or tricyclic antidepressants ('mood elevators') such as amitriptyline, clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Silenor), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil), and trimipramine (Surmontil). Also tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking or receiving the following monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors or if you have stopped taking them within the past two weeks: isocarboxazid (Marplan), linezolid (Zyvox), methylene blue, phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), or tranylcypromine (Parnate). Many other medications may also interact with morphine, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor what herbal products you are taking, especially St. John's wort or tryptophan.
- tell your doctor if you drink large amounts of alcohol or if you have asthma or other breathing disorders, irregular heartbeat, a brain tumor, or heart failure. Your doctor may tell you not to use morphine injection.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had a head injury or any condition that increases the amount of pressure in your brain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD; a group of lung diseases that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema); blockage in your stomach or intestine, prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of a male reproductive gland), urethral stricture (blockage of the tube that allows urine to leave the body), low blood pressure, Addison's disease (condition in which the adrenal gland does not produce enough hormone), or gallbladder, heart, liver or kidney disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while using morphine, call your doctor.
- you should know that this medication may decrease fertility in men and women. Talk to your doctor about the risks of using morphine.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are using morphine.
- you should know that this medication may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
- ask your doctor about the safe use of alcoholic beverages while you are using morphine.
- you should know that morphine may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting when you get up too quickly from a lying position. To avoid this problem, get out of bed slowly, resting your feet on the floor for a few minutes before standing up.
- you should know that morphine may cause constipation. Talk to your doctor about changing your diet or using other medications to prevent or treat constipation while you are using morphine.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Morphine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- mood changes
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:
- slowed breathing
- long pauses between breaths
- shortness of breath
- agitation, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), fever, sweating, confusion, fast heartbeat, shivering, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, or dizziness
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
Morphine may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are using this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Your healthcare provider will tell you how to store your medication. Store your medication only as directed. Make sure you understand how to store your medication properly.
Do not allow anyone else to use your medication. Morphine may harm or cause death to other people who take your medication, especially children. Store morphine in a safe place so that no one else can take it accidentally or on purpose. Be especially careful to keep morphine out of the reach of children. Keep track of how much medication is left so you will know if any missing.
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA's Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include the following:
- slow, shallow, or irregular breathing
- loss of consciousness
- cold, clammy skin
- small pupils
- slow heartbeat
- blurred vision
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab tests to check your body's response to morphine.
Before having any laboratory test (especially those that involve methylene blue), tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are using morphine.
This prescription is not refillable. If you are using morphine to control your pain on a long term basis, be sure to schedule appointments with your doctor so that you do not run out of medication. If you are using morphine on a short-term basis, call your doctor if you continue to experience pain after you finish the medication.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
- Astramorph® PF