Mechanism of Action
Codeine is an opioid agonist relatively selective for the mu-opioid receptor, but with a much weaker affinity than morphine. The analgesic properties of codeine have been speculated to come from its conversion to morphine, although the exact mechanism of analgesic action remains unknown.
The precise mechanism of the analgesic properties of acetaminophen is not established but is thought to involve central actions.
Effects on the Central Nervous System
Codeine produces respiratory depression by direct action on brain stem respiratory centers. The respiratory depression involves a reduction in the responsiveness of the brain stem respiratory centers to both increases in carbon dioxide tension and electrical stimulation.
Codeine causes miosis, even in total darkness. Pinpoint pupils are a sign of opioid overdose but are not pathognomonic (e.g., pontine lesions of hemorrhagic or ischemic origins may produce similar findings). Marked mydriasis rather than miosis may be seen due to hypoxia in overdose situations.
Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract and Other Smooth Muscle
Codeine causes a reduction in motility associated with an increase in smooth muscle tone in the antrum of the stomach and duodenum. Digestion of food in the small intestine is delayed and propulsive contractions are decreased. Propulsive peristaltic waves in the colon are decreased, while tone may be increased to the point of spasm, resulting in constipation. Other opioid-induced effects may include a reduction in biliary and pancreatic secretions, spasm of sphincter of Oddi, and transient elevations in serum amylase.
Effects on the Cardiovascular System
Codeine produces peripheral vasodilation which may result in orthostatic hypotension or syncope. Manifestations of histamine release and/or peripheral vasodilation may include pruritus, flushing, red eyes, sweating, and/or orthostatic hypotension.
Effects on the Endocrine System
Opioids inhibit the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, and luteinizing hormone (LH) in humans (see ADVERSE REACTIONS). They also stimulate prolactin, growth hormone (GH) secretion, and pancreatic secretion of insulin and glucagon.
Chronic use of opioids may influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, leading to androgen deficiency that may manifest as low libido, impotence, erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, or infertility. The causal role of opioids in the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism is unknown because the various medical, physical, lifestyle, and psychological stressors that may influence gonadal hormone levels have not been adequately controlled for in studies conducted to date (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).
Effects on the Immune System
Opioids have been shown to have a variety of effects on components of the immune system. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown. Overall, the effects of opioids appear to be modestly immunosuppressive.
The minimum effective analgesic concentration will vary widely among patients, especially among patients who have been previously treated with potent agonist opioids. The minimum effective analgesic concentration of codeine for any individual patient may increase over time due to an increase in pain, the development of a new pain syndrome, and/or the development of analgesic tolerance (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Concentration-Adverse Reaction Relationships
There is a relationship between increasing codeine plasma concentration and increasing frequency of dose-related opioid adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting, CNS effects, and respiratory depression. In opioid-tolerant patients, the situation may be altered by the development of tolerance to opioid-related adverse reactions (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
The behavior of the individual components is described below.
Codeine is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. It is rapidly distributed from the intravascular spaces to the various body tissues, with preferential uptake by parenchymatous organs such as the liver, spleen, and kidney. Codeine crosses the blood-brain barrier and is found in fetal tissue and breast milk. The plasma concentration does not correlate with brain concentration or relief of pain. Codeine is about 7 to 25% bound to plasma proteins and does not accumulate in body tissues.
About 70 to 80% of the administered dose of codeine is metabolized by conjugation with glucuronic acid to codeine-6-glucuronide (C6G) and via O-demethylation to morphine (about 5 to 10%) and N-demethylation to norcodeine (about 10%) respectively. UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 2B7 and 2B4 are the major enzymes mediating glucurodination of codeine to C6G. Cytochrome P450 2D6 is the major enzyme responsible for conversion of codeine to morphine and P450 3A4 is the major enzyme mediating conversion of codeine to norcodeine. Morphine and norcodeine are further metabolized by conjugation with glucuronic acid. The glucuronide metabolites of morphine are morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G). Morphine and M6G are known to have analgesic activity in humans. The analgesic activity of C6G in humans is unknown. Norcodeine and M3G are generally not considered to possess analgesic properties.
The plasma half-life is about 2.9 hours. The elimination of codeine is primarily via the kidneys, and about 90% of an oral dose is excreted by the kidneys within 24 hours of dosing. The urinary secretion products consist of free and glucuronide conjugated codeine (about 70%), free and conjugated norcodeine (about 10%), free and conjugated morphine (about 10%), normorphine (4%), and hydrocodone (1%). The remainder of the dose is excreted in the feces.
At therapeutic doses, the analgesic effect reaches a peak within 2 hours and persists between 4 and 6 hours.
Acetaminophen is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and is distributed throughout most body tissues. A small fraction (10 to 25%) of acetaminophen is bound to plasma proteins. The plasma half-life is 1.25 to 3 hours, but may be increased by liver damage and following overdosage. Elimination of acetaminophen is principally by liver metabolism (conjugation) and subsequent renal excretion of metabolites. Acetaminophen is primarily metabolized in the liver by first-order kinetics and involves three principal separate pathways: conjugation with glucuronide; conjugation with sulfate; and oxidation via the cytochrome, P450-dependent, mixed-function oxidase enzyme pathway to form a reactive intermediate metabolite, which conjugates with glutathione and is then further metabolized to form cysteine and mercapturic acid conjugates. The principal cytochrome P450 isoenzyme involved appears to be CYP2E1, with CYP1A2 and CYP3A4 as additional pathways. Approximately 85% of an oral dose appears in the urine within
24 hours of administration, most as the glucuronide conjugate, with small amounts of other conjugates and unchanged drug.
See OVERDOSAGE for toxicity information.
Acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets are indicated for the management of mild to moderate pain, where treatment with an opioid is appropriate and for which alternative treatments are inadequate.
Limitations of Use
Because of the risks of addiction, abuse, and misuse, with opioids, even at recommended doses (see WARNINGS), reserve acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options (e.g., non-opioid analgesics)
- Have not provided adequate analgesia, or are not expected to provide adequate analgesia,
- Have not been tolerated, or are not expected to be tolerated.
Acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets are contraindicated for:
- All children younger than 12 years of age (see WARNINGS).
- Postoperative management in children younger than 18 years of age following tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy (see WARNINGS).
Acetaminophen and codeine phosphate tablets are contraindicated in patients with:
- significant respiratory depression (see WARNINGS).
- acute or severe bronchial asthma in an unmonitored setting or in the absence of resuscitative equipment (see WARNINGS).
- concurrent use of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or use of MAOIs within the last 14 days (see WARNINGS).
- known or suspected gastrointestinal obstruction, including paralytic ileus (see WARNINGS).
- hypersensitivity to codeine, acetaminophen, or any of the formulation excipients (e.g., anaphylaxis) (see WARNINGS).
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