TOPIC: Benzodiazepine Drug Class: Drug Safety Communication - Boxed Warning Updated to Improve Safe Use
AUDIENCE: Patient, Health Professional, Pharmacy
ISSUE: The FDA is requiring the Boxed Warning, FDA's most prominent warning, be updated by adding other information to the prescribing information for all benzodiazepine medicines. This information will describe the risks of abuse, misuse, addiction, physical dependence, and withdrawal reactions consistently across all the medicines in the class. The FDA is also requiring updates to the existing patient Medication Guides to help educate patients and caregivers about these risks.
Other changes are also being required to several sections of the prescribing information, including to the Warnings and Precautions, Drug Abuse and Dependence, and Patient Counseling Information sections.
BACKGROUND: Benzodiazepines are a class of medicines approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, seizures, social phobia, and panic disorder.
Health Care Professionals
- Consider the patient's condition and the other medicines being taken, and assess the risk of abuse, misuse, and addiction, available at: http://bit.ly/3lfHUIG.
- Limit the dosage and duration of each medicine to the minimum needed to achieve the desired clinical effect when prescribing benzodiazepines, alone or in combination with other medicines.
- Use a gradual taper to reduce the dosage or to discontinue benzodiazepines to reduce the risk of acute withdrawal reactions.
- Take precautions when benzodiazepines are used in combination with opioid addiction medications, available at: http://bit.ly/3eNL9ET.
Patients, Parents, and Caregivers
- Always tell your health care professionals about all the prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you are taking or any other substances you are using, including alcohol.
- Take benzodiazepines and all medicines exactly as prescribed by your health care professional
- Discuss a plan for slowly decreasing the dose and frequency of your benzodiazepine(s) with your health care professional.
- Contact your health care professional if you experience withdrawal symptoms or your medical condition worsens.
- Go to an emergency room or call 911 if you have trouble breathing or other serious side effects such as seizures.
For more information visit the FDA website at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation and http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety.
Flurazepam may increase the risk of serious or life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, or coma if used along with certain medications. Tell your doctor if you are taking or plan to take certain opiate medications for cough such as codeine (in Triacin-C, in Tuzistra XR) or hydrocodone (in Anexsia, in Norco, in Zyfrel) or for pain such as codeine (in Fiorinal), fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Subsys, others), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine, Methadose), morphine (Astramorph, Duramorph PF, Kadian), oxycodone (in Oxycet, in Percocet, in Roxicet, others), and tramadol (Conzip, Ultram, in Ultracet). Your doctor may need to change the dosages of your medications and will monitor you carefully. If you take flurazepam with any of these medications and you develop any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately or seek emergency medical care immediately: unusual dizziness, lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, or unresponsiveness. Be sure that your caregiver or family members know which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor or emergency medical care if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.
Drinking alcohol or using street drugs during your treatment with flurazepam also increases the risk that you will experience these serious, life-threatening side effects. Do not drink alcohol or use street drugs during your treatment.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Flurazepam is used to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep). Flurazepam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep.
How should this medicine be used?
Flurazepam comes as a capsule to take by mouth. It is usually taken as needed at bedtime. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take flurazepam exactly as directed.
Flurazepam starts working slowly and continues to work for a short time after you stop taking it. You may experience more benefit from flurazepam on the second and third nights after you start taking it. You may continue to feel the effects of flurazepam for one to two nights after you stop taking the medication.
Your sleep problems should improve within 7 to 10 days after you start taking flurazepam. Call your doctor if your sleep problems do not improve during this time, if they get worse at any time during your treatment, or if you notice any changes in your thoughts or behavior.
Flurazepam can be habit-forming. Do not take a larger dose, take it more often, or take it for a longer time than prescribed by your doctor.
If your doctor has told you to take flurazepam regularly, talk to your doctor before you stop taking this medication. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually. If you suddenly stop taking flurazepam, especially after taking it regularly, you may develop withdrawal symptoms such as sadness, difficulty sleeping, seizures, uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body, stomach and muscle cramps, vomiting, and sweating.
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 taking flurazepam,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to flurazepam, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in flurazepam capsules. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take during your treatment with flurazepam and for several days afterward. Be sure to mention any of the following: antihistamines; cimetidine; clozapine (Clozaril, Versacloz); digoxin; medications for anxiety, depression, mental illness, or seizures; muscle relaxants; sedatives; other sleeping pills; and tranquilizers. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor if you drink or have ever drunk large amounts of alcohol, use or have ever used street drugs, or have overused prescription medications. Also tell your doctor if you have or have ever had depression; mental illness; sleep apnea (a sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop for short periods during sleep); or lung, kidney, or liver disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking flurazepam, call your doctor immediately.
- talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking flurazepam if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should not usually take flurazepam because it is not as safe as other medications that can be used to treat the same condition.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking flurazepam.
- you should know that this medication may make you drowsy and may increase the risk that you could fall. Take extra care to be sure you do not fall, especially if you get out of bed in the middle of the night. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
- tell your doctor if you use tobacco products. Cigarette smoking may decrease the effectiveness of this medication.
- you should know that some people who took medications for sleep got out of bed and drove their cars, prepared and ate food, had sex, made phone calls, or were involved in other activities while partially asleep. After they woke up, these people were usually unable to remember what they had done. Call your doctor right away if you find out that you have been driving or doing anything else while you were sleeping.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Flurazepam should only be taken at bedtime. If you forget to take flurazepam at bedtime, you are unable to fall asleep, and you will still be able to stay in bed for a full night's sleep, you may take flurazepam at that time. Do not take a double dose of flurazepam to make up for a missed dose.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Flurazepam may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- loss of coordination
- stomach pain
- talking more than usual
- joint pain
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following side effects, call your doctor immediately:
- swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- pounding heartbeat
- chest pain
- coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)
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?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom).
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
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 the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can't be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include the following:
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Flurazepam is a controlled substance. Prescriptions may be refilled only a limited number of times; ask your pharmacist if you have any questions.
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.
¶ This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.