Profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death may result from the concomitant use of acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets with benzodiazepines and/or other CNS depressants (e.g., non-benzodiazepine sedatives/hypnotics, anxiolytics, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, general anesthetics, antipsychotics, other opioids, alcohol). Because of these risks, reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate.
Observational studies have demonstrated that concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increases the risk of drug-related mortality compared to use of opioid analgesics alone. Because of similar pharmacological properties, it is reasonable to expect similar risk with the concomitant use of other CNS depressant drugs with opioid analgesics ( see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions).
If the decision is made to prescribe a benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant concomitantly with an opioid analgesic, prescribe the lowest effective dosages and minimum durations of concomitant use. In patients already receiving an opioid analgesic, prescribe a lower initial dose of the benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant than indicated in the absence of an opioid, and titrate based on clinical response. If an opioid analgesic is initiated in a patient already taking a benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant, prescribe a lower initial dose of the opioid analgesic, and titrate based on clinical response. Follow patients closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation.
If concomitant use is warranted, consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose ( see WARNINGS, Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression; DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Patient Access to Naloxone for the Emergency Treatment of Opioid Overdose).
Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of respiratory depression and sedation when acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets are used with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants (including alcohol and illicit drugs). Advise patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until the effects of concomitant use of the benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant have been determined. Screen patients for risk of substance use disorders, including opioid abuse and misuse, and warn them of the risk for overdose and death associated with the use of additional CNS depressants including alcohol and illicit drugs ( see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactionsand Information for Patients/Caregivers).
Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression in Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease or Elderly, Cachectic, or Debilitated Patients
The use of acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets in patients with acute or severe bronchial asthma in an unmonitored setting or in the absence of resuscitative equipment is contraindicated.
Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease
Acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets-treated patients with significant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cor pulmonale, and those with a substantially decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercapnia, or pre-existing respiratory depression are at increased risk of decreased respiratory drive including apnea, even at recommended dosages of acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets ( see WARNINGS, Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression).
Elderly, Cachectic, or Debilitated Patients
Life-threatening respiratory depression is more likely to occur in elderly, cachectic, or debilitated patients because they may have altered pharmacokinetics, including clearance, compared to younger, healthier patients ( see WARNINGS, Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression).
Monitor such patients closely, particularly when initiating and titrating acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets and when acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets are given concomitantly with other drugs that depress respiration ( see WARNINGS, Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression). Alternatively, consider the use of non-opioid analgesics in these patients.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may potentiate the effects of morphine, codeine’s active metabolite, including respiratory depression, coma, and confusion. Acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets should not be used in patients taking MAOIs or within 14 days of stopping such treatment.
Cases of adrenal insufficiency have been reported with opioid use, more often following greater than 1 month of use. Presentation of adrenal insufficiency may include non-specific symptoms and signs including nausea, vomiting, anorexia, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and low blood pressure. If adrenal insufficiency is suspected, confirm the diagnosis with diagnostic testing as soon as possible. If adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed, treat with physiologic replacement doses of corticosteroids. Wean the patient off of the opioid to allow adrenal function to recover and continue corticosteroid treatment until adrenal function recovers. Other opioids may be tried as some cases reported use of a different opioid without recurrence of adrenal insufficiency. The information available does not identify any particular opioids as being more likely to be associated with adrenal insufficiency.
Acetaminophen and codeine may cause severe hypotension including orthostatic hypotension and syncope in ambulatory patients. There is increased risk in patients whose ability to maintain blood pressure has already been compromised by a reduced blood volume or concurrent administration of certain CNS depressant drugs (e.g., phenothiazines or general anesthetics) (
see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions). Monitor these patients for signs of hypotension after initiating or titrating the dosage of acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets. In patients with circulatory shock acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets may cause vasodilatation that can further reduce cardiac output and blood pressure. Avoid the use of acetaminophen and codeine with circulatory shock.
Rarely, acetaminophen may cause serious skin reactions such as acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP), Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), which can be fatal. Patients should be informed about the signs of serious skin reactions, and use of the drug should be discontinued at the first appearance of skin rash or any other sign of hypersensitivity.
Risks of Use in Patients with Increased Intracranial Pressure, Brain Tumors, Head Injury, or Impaired Consciousness
In patients who may be susceptible to the intracranial effects of CO
2 retention (e.g., those with evidence of increased intracranial pressure or brain tumors), acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets may reduce respiratory drive, and the resultant CO
2 retention can further increase intracranial pressure. Monitor such patients for signs of sedation and respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy with acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets.
Opioids may also obscure the clinical course in a patient with a head injury. Avoid the use of acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets in patients with impaired consciousness or coma.
There have been postmarketing reports of hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis associated with the use of acetaminophen. Clinical signs included swelling of the face, mouth, and throat, respiratory distress, urticaria, rash, pruritus, and vomiting. There were infrequent reports of life-threatening anaphylaxis requiring emergency medical attention. Instruct patients to discontinue acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets immediately and seek medical care if they experience these symptoms. Do not prescribe acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets for patients with acetaminophen allergy (
see PRECAUTIONS, Information for Patients/Caregivers).
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