TOPIC: Opioid Pain Relievers or Medicines to Treat Opioid Use Disorder: MedWatch Safety Alert - FDA Recommends Health Care Professionals Discuss Naloxone with All Patients when Prescribing.
AUDIENCE: Patient, Health Professional, Pharmacy
ISSUE: FDA is requiring drug manufacturers for all opioid pain relievers and medicines to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) to add new recommendations about naloxone to the prescribing information. This will help ensure that health care professionals discuss the availability of naloxone and assess each patient's need for a naloxone prescription when opioid pain relievers or medicines to treat OUD are being prescribed or renewed. The patient Medication Guides, available at: https://bit.ly/3hzDavc, will also be updated.
BACKGROUND: Opioid pain relievers are medicines that can help manage pain when other treatments and medicines are not able to provide enough pain relief. Certain opioids are also used to treat OUD. Opioids have serious risks, including misuse and abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. Naloxone can help reverse opioid overdose to prevent death.
The misuse and abuse of illicit and prescription opioids and the risks of addiction, overdose, and death are a public health crisis in the United States. As a result, FDA is committed to encouraging health care professionals to raise awareness of the availability of naloxone when they are prescribing and dispensing opioid pain relievers or medicines to treat OUD. FDA held discussions about naloxone availability with the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committees, available at: https://bit.ly/3hx8tXG, which recommended that all patients being prescribed opioids for use in the outpatient setting would benefit from a conversation with their health care professional about the availability of naloxone.
- Talk to your health care professionals about the benefits of naloxone and how to obtain it.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of a possible opioid overdose. These include slowed, shallow, or difficult breathing, severe sleepiness, or not being able to respond or wake up. If you know or think someone is overdosing, give the person naloxone if you have access to it, and always call 911 or go to an emergency room right away. Naloxone is a temporary treatment, so repeat doses may be required. Even if you give naloxone, you still need to get emergency medical help right away.
- If you have naloxone, make sure to tell your caregivers, household members, and other close contacts that you have it, where it is stored, and how to properly use it in the event of an overdose. When using opioid medicines away from home, carry naloxone with you and let those you are with know you have it, where it is, and how to use it. Read the Patient Information leaflet or other educational material and Instructions for Use that comes with your naloxone because it explains important information, including how to use the medicine.
Health Care Professionals:
- Discuss the availability of naloxone with all patients when prescribing or renewing an opioid analgesic or medicine to treat OUD.
- Consider prescribing naloxone to patients prescribed medicines to treat OUD and patients prescribed opioid analgesics who are at increased risk of opioid overdose.
- Consider prescribing naloxone when a patient has household members, including children, or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or opioid overdose.
- Additionally, even if the patients are not receiving a prescription for an opioid analgesic or medicine to treat OUD, consider prescribing naloxone to them if they are at increased risk of opioid overdose.
- Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and how to administer naloxone. Inform them about their options for obtaining naloxone as permitted by their individual state, available at: https://www.usa.gov/state-health, dispensing and prescribing requirements or guidelines for naloxone. Emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help right away, even if naloxone is administered.
For more information visit the FDA website at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation and http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety.
Morphine may be habit forming, especially with prolonged use. Take morphine exactly as directed. Do not take more of it, take it more often, or take it in a different way than directed by your doctor. While you are taking morphine, discuss with your healthcare provider your pain treatment goals, length of treatment, and other ways to manage your pain. Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family drinks or has ever drunk large amounts of alcohol, uses or has ever used street drugs, or has overused prescription medications, or if you have or have ever had depression or another mental illness. There is a greater risk that you will overuse morphine if you have or have ever had any of these conditions. Talk to your healthcare provider immediately and ask for guidance if you think that you have an opioid addiction or call the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
Morphine may cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first 24 to 72 hours of your treatment and any time your dose is increased. Your doctor will monitor you carefully during your treatment. Your doctor will adjust your dose carefully to control your pain and decrease the risk that you will experience serious breathing problems. Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had slowed breathing or asthma. Your doctor may tell you not to take morphine. Also tell your doctor if you have or have ever had lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD; a group of lung diseases that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema), a head injury, or any condition that increases the amount of pressure in your brain. The risk that you will develop breathing problems may be higher if you are an older adult or are weakened or malnourished due to disease. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment: slowed breathing, long pauses between breaths, or shortness of breath.
Taking certain other medications during your treatment with morphine may increase the risk that you will experience breathing problems or other serious, life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, or coma. Tell your doctor if you are taking or plan to take any of the following medications: benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Diastat, Valium), estazolam, flurazepam, lorazepam (Ativan), and triazolam (Halcion); cimetidine (Tagamet); other narcotic pain medications; medications for mental illness or nausea; muscle relaxants; sedatives; sleeping pills; or tranquilizers. Your doctor may need to change the dosages of your medications and will monitor you carefully. If you take morphine with any of these medications and you develop any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately or seek emergency medical care: 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, taking prescription or nonprescription medications that contain alcohol, or using street drugs during your treatment with morphine increases the risk that you will experience breathing problems or other serious, life-threatening side effects. If you are taking Avinza brand long-acting capsules, it is especially important that you do not drink any drinks that contain alcohol or take any prescription or nonprescription medications that contain alcohol. Alcohol may cause the morphine in Avinza® brand long-acting capsules to be released in your body too quickly, causing serious health problems or death. Do not drink alcohol, take any prescription or nonprescription medications that contain alcohol, or use street drugs during your treatment with other morphine products.
Do not allow anyone else to take your medication. Morphine may harm or cause death to other people who take your medication, especially children. Keep 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 many tablets, or capsules, or how much liquid is left so you will know if any medication is missing. Dispose of any unneeded morphine capsules, tablets, or liquid properly according to instructions. (See STORAGE and DISPOSAL.)
Swallow the extended-release tablets or capsules whole. Do not split, chew, dissolve, or crush them. If you swallow broken, chewed, crushed, or dissolved extended-release tablets or capsules, you may receive too much morphine at once instead of receiving the medication slowly over time. This may cause serious breathing problems or death. If you are unable to swallow the capsules whole, follow the instructions in the ''HOW should this medication be used?'' section below to dissolve the capsule contents in applesauce.
Morphine oral solution (liquid) comes in three different concentrations (amount of medication contained in a given amount of solution). The solution with the highest concentration (100 mg/5 mL) should only be taken by people who are tolerant (used to the effects of the medication) to opioid medications. Each time you receive your medication, check to be sure that you receive the solution with the concentration prescribed by your doctor. Be sure that you know how much medication you should take and how to measure your dose.
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. If you take morphine regularly during your pregnancy, your baby may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms after birth. Tell your baby's doctor right away if your baby experiences any of the following symptoms: irritability, hyperactivity, abnormal sleep, high-pitched cry, uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body, vomiting, diarrhea, or failure to gain weight.
Your doctor or pharmacist will give you the manufacturer's patient information sheet (Medication Guide) when you begin treatment with morphine and each time you fill your prescription if a Medication Guide is available for the morphine product you are taking. Read the information carefully and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. You can also visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm085729.htm) or the manufacturer's website to obtain the Medication Guide.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Morphine is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Morphine extended-release tablets and capsules are only used to relieve severe (around-the-clock) pain that cannot be controlled by the use of other pain medications. Morphine extended-release tablets and capsules should not be used to treat pain that can be controlled by medication that is taken as needed. 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 comes as a solution (liquid), an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, and as an extended-release (long-acting) capsule to take by mouth. The oral solution is usually taken every 4 hours as needed for pain. MS Contin brand and Arymo ER brand are extended-release tablets that are usually taken every 8 or every 12 hours. Morphabond brand extended-release tablets are usually taken every 12 hours. Kadian brand extended-release capsules are usually taken with or without food every 12 hours or every 24 hours. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.
If you are taking morphine solution, use the dosing cup or syringe that comes with the medication to measure your dose. Be sure that you know how many milliliters of the liquid you should take. Ask your pharmacist if you have any question about how much medication you should take or how to use the dosing cup or syringe.
If you are taking Kadian brand extended-release capsules and you have a gastrostomy tube (surgically inserted feeding tube), ask your doctor or pharmacist how to administer the medication through your tube.
If you are unable to swallow the extended-release capsules (Kadian), you can carefully open a capsule, sprinkle all of the beads that it contains on a spoonful of cold or room temperature applesauce, and swallow the entire mixture immediately without chewing or crushing the beads. Then rinse your mouth with a little water and swallow the water to be sure that you have swallowed all the medication. Do not mix the beads into any other food. Do not save mixtures of medication and applesauce for later.
If you are taking the extended-release tablets (Arymo ER), swallow them one at a time with plenty of water. Swallow the extended-release tablets right after putting it in your mouth. Do not presoak, wet, or lick the extended-release tablets before you put them in your mouth.
Your doctor may start you on a low dose of morphine and gradually increase your dose until your pain is controlled. Your doctor may adjust your dose at any time during your treatment if your pain is not controlled. If you feel that your pain is not controlled, call your doctor. Do not change the dose of your medication without talking to your doctor.
Do not stop taking morphine without talking to your doctor. Your doctor may decrease your dose gradually. If you suddenly stop taking morphine, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness; teary eyes; runny nose; yawning; irritability; anxiety; sweating; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; chills; back, muscle, or joint pain; nausea; vomiting; loss of appetite; diarrhea; stomach cramps; weakness; fast heartbeat; or fast breathing.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking morphine,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to morphine, any other medications, or any of the inactive ingredients in the type of morphine product you plan to take. Ask your pharmacist or check the Medication Guide for a list of the inactive ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention the medications listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section and any of the following: antihistamines (found in cold and allergy medications); buprenorphine (Belbuca, Butrans, in Suboxone, others); butorphanol; cyclobenzaprine (Amrix); dextromethorphan (found in many cough medications; in Nuedexta); diuretics ('water pills'); lithium (Lithobid); medications for migraine headaches such as almotriptan (Axert), eletriptan (Relpax), frovatriptan (Frova), naratriptan (Amerge), rizatriptan (Maxalt), sumatriptan (Imitrex, in Treximet), and zolmitriptan (Zomig); mirtazapine (Remeron); nalbuphine; pentazocine (Talwin); quinidine (in Nuedexta); 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); tramadol (Conzip, Ultram, in Ultracet), 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 if you are taking any of the following monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, or if you have stopped taking them within the past 2 weeks: isocarboxazid (Marplan), linezolid (Zyvox), methylene blue, phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and 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 more carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor what herbal products you are taking, especially St. John's wort and tryptophan.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any of the conditions mentioned in the IMPORTANT WARNING section or paralytic ileus (condition in which digested food does not move through the intestines). Your doctor may tell you not to take morphine.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had a blockage in your stomach or intestines; seizures; difficulty swallowing; prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of a male reproductive gland); urinary problems; low blood pressure; Addison's disease (condition in which the adrenal gland does not make enough of certain natural substances) or liver, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, or gallbladder disease.
- tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding.
- you should know that this medication may decrease fertility in men and women. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking morphine.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking 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.
- 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 taking morphine.
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?
If you are taking morphine tablets or liquid, your doctor will probably tell you to take the medication as needed.
If you have been told to take scheduled doses of the tablets or liquid or if you are taking an extended-release product, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it, and do not take the next dose at your regularly scheduled time. Instead, allow the same amount of time that you usually allow between doses before taking your next dose. If you remember when it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
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:
- stomach pain and cramps
- dry mouth
- mood changes
- small pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes
- difficulty urinating or pain when urinating
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- blue or purple color to the skin
- changes in heartbeat
- 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
- extreme drowsiness
- chest pain
- swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, lips or throat
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
Morphine may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking 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?
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). You must immediately dispose of any medication that is outdated or no longer needed through a medicine take-back program. If you do not have a take-back program nearby or one that you can access promptly, flush any morphine extended-release tablets, extended-release capsules, and liquid that are outdated or no longer needed down the toilet so that others will not take them. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
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
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.
While you are taking morphine, you may be told to always have a rescue medication called naloxone available (e.g., home, office). Naloxone is used to reverse the life-threatening effects of an overdose. It works by blocking the effects of opiates to relieve dangerous symptoms caused by high levels of opiates in the blood. You will probably be unable to treat yourself if you experience an opiate overdose. You should make sure that your family members, caregivers, or the people who spend time with you know how to tell if you are experiencing an overdose, how to use naloxone, and what to do until emergency medical help arrives. Your doctor or pharmacist will show you and your family members how to use the medication. Ask your pharmacist for the instructions or visit the manufacturer's website to get the instructions. If someone sees that you are experiencing symptoms of an overdose, he or she should give you your first dose of naloxone, call 911 immediately, and stay with you and watch you closely until emergency medical help arrives. Your symptoms may return within a few minutes after you receive naloxone. If your symptoms return, the person should give you another dose of naloxone. Additional doses may be given every 2 to 3 minutes, if symptoms return before medical help arrives.
Symptoms of overdose may include the following:
- slow, shallow, or irregular breathing
- loss of consciousness
- limp muscles
- 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 taking morphine.
This prescription is not refillable. If you are taking 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 taking 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.
Brand names of combination products
- Embeda® (containing Morphine, Naltrexone)¶
¶ This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.