CLINICAL EFFICACY TRIALS
The efficacy of alprazolam extended-release tablets in the treatment of panic disorder was established in two 6-week, placebo-controlled studies of alprazolam extended-release tablets in patients with panic disorder.
In two 6-week, flexible-dose, placebo-controlled studies in patients meeting DSM-III criteria for panic disorder, patients were treated with alprazolam extended-release tablets in a dose range of 1 to 10 mg/day, on a once-a-day basis. The effectiveness of alprazolam extended-release tablets was assessed on the basis of changes in various measures of panic attack frequency, on various measures of the Clinical Global Impression, and on the Overall Phobia Scale. In all, there were seven primary efficacy measures in these studies, and alprazolam extended-release tablets was superior to placebo on all seven outcomes in both studies. The mean dose of alprazolam extended-release tablets at the last treatment visit was 4.2 mg/day in the first study and 4.6 mg/day in the second.
In addition, there were two 8-week, fixed-dose, placebo-controlled studies of alprazolam extended-release tablets in patients with panic disorder, involving fixed alprazolam extended-release tablets doses of 4 and 6 mg/day, on a once-a-day basis, that did not show a benefit for either dose of alprazolam extended-release tablets.
The longer-term efficacy of alprazolam extended-release tablets in panic disorder has not been systematically evaluated.
Analyses of the relationship between treatment outcome and gender did not suggest any differential responsiveness on the basis of gender.
ALPRAZOLAM ER Indications and Usage
Alprazolam extended-release tablets are indicated for the treatment of panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia.
This claim is supported on the basis of two positive studies with alprazolam extended-release tablets conducted in patients whose diagnoses corresponded closely to the DSM-III-R/IV criteria for panic disorder (see CLINICAL STUDIES).
Panic disorder (DSM-IV) is characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks, ie, a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort in which four (or more) of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes: (1) palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; (2) sweating; (3) trembling or shaking; (4) sensations of shortness of breath or smothering; (5) feeling of choking; (6) chest pain or discomfort; (7) nausea or abdominal distress; (8) feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint; (9) derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself); (10) fear of losing control; (11) fear of dying; (12) paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations); (13) chills or hot flushes.
The longer-term efficacy of alprazolam extended-release tablets has not been systematically evaluated. Thus, the physician who elects to use this drug for periods longer than 8 weeks should periodically reassess the usefulness of the drug for the individual patient.
Alprazolam extended-release tablets are contraindicated in patients with known sensitivity to this drug or other benzodiazepines. Alprazolam extended-release tablets may be used in patients with open angle glaucoma who are receiving appropriate therapy, but are contraindicated in patients with acute narrow angle glaucoma.
Alprazolam extended-release tablets are contraindicated with ketoconazole and itraconazole, since these medications significantly impair the oxidative metabolism mediated by cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS — Drug Interactions).
Certain adverse clinical events, some life-threatening, are a direct consequence of physical dependence to alprazolam. These include a spectrum of withdrawal symptoms; the most important is seizure (see DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE). Even after relatively short-term use at doses of ≤ 4 mg/day, there is some risk of dependence. Spontaneous reporting system data suggest that the risk of dependence and its severity appear to be greater in patients treated with doses greater than 4 mg/day and for long periods (more than 12 weeks). However, in a controlled postmarketing discontinuation study of panic disorder patients who received alprazolam tablets, the duration of treatment (3 months compared to 6 months) had no effect on the ability of patients to taper to zero dose. In contrast, patients treated with doses of alprazolam tablets greater than 4 mg/day had more difficulty tapering to zero dose than those treated with less than 4 mg/day.
Relapse or return of illness was defined as a return of symptoms characteristic of panic disorder (primarily panic attacks) to levels approximately equal to those seen at baseline before active treatment was initiated. Rebound refers to a return of symptoms of panic disorder to a level substantially greater in frequency, or more severe in intensity than seen at baseline. Withdrawal symptoms were identified as those which were generally not characteristic of panic disorder and which occurred for the first time more frequently during discontinuation than at baseline.
The rate of relapse, rebound, and withdrawal in patients with panic disorder who received alprazoalam extended-release tablets has not been systematically studied. Experience in randomized placebo-controlled discontinuation studies of patients with panic disorder who received alprazolam tablets showed a high rate of rebound and withdrawal symptoms compared to placebo treated patients.
In a controlled clinical trial in which 63 patients were randomized to alprazolam tablets and where withdrawal symptoms were specifically sought, the following were identified as symptoms of withdrawal: heightened sensory perception, impaired concentration, dysosmia, clouded sensorium, paresthesias, muscle cramps, muscle twitch, diarrhea, blurred vision, appetite decrease, and weight loss. Other symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia, were frequently seen during discontinuation, but it could not be determined if they were due to return of illness, rebound, or withdrawal.
In two controlled trials of 6 to 8 weeks duration where the ability of patients to discontinue medication was measured, 71%-93% of patients treated with alprazolam tablets tapered completely off therapy compared to 89%-96% of placebo treated patients. In a controlled postmarketing discontinuation study of panic disorder patients treated with alprazolam tablets, the duration of treatment (3 months compared to 6 months) had no effect on the ability of patients to taper to zero dose.
Seizures were reported for three patients in panic disorder clinical trials with alprazolam extended-release tablets. In two cases, the patients had completed 6 weeks of treatment with alprazolam extended-release tablets 6 mg/day before experiencing a single seizure. In one case, the patient abruptly discontinued alprazolam extended-release tablets, and in both cases, alcohol intake was implicated. The third case involved multiple seizures after the patient completed treatment with alprazolam extended-release tablets 4 mg/day and missed taking the medication on the first day of taper. All three patients recovered without sequelae.
Seizures have also been observed in association with dose reduction or discontinuation of alprazolam tablets, the immediate release form of alprazolam. Seizures attributable to alprazolam were seen after drug discontinuance or dose reduction in 8 of 1980 patients with panic disorder or in patients participating in clinical trials where doses of alprazolam greater than 4 mg/day for over 3 months were permitted. Five of these cases clearly occurred during abrupt dose reduction, or discontinuation from daily doses of 2 to 10 mg. Three cases occurred in situations where there was not a clear relationship to abrupt dose reduction or discontinuation. In one instance, seizure occurred after discontinuation from a single dose of 1 mg after tapering at a rate of 1 mg every three days from 6 mg daily. In two other instances, the relationship to taper is indeterminate; in both of these cases the patients had been receiving doses of 3 mg daily prior to seizure. The duration of use in the above 8 cases ranged from 4 to 22 weeks. There have been occasional voluntary reports of patients developing seizures while apparently tapering gradually from alprazolam. The risk of seizure seems to be greatest 24-72 hours after discontinuation (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION for recommended tapering and discontinuation schedule).
The medical event voluntary reporting system shows that withdrawal seizures have been reported in association with the discontinuation of alprazolam tablets. In most cases, only a single seizure was reported; however, multiple seizures and status epilepticus were reported as well.
Early morning anxiety and emergence of anxiety symptoms between doses of alprazolam tablets have been reported in patients with panic disorder taking prescribed maintenance doses. These symptoms may reflect the development of tolerance or a time interval between doses which is longer than the duration of clinical action of the administered dose. In either case, it is presumed that the prescribed dose is not sufficient to maintain plasma levels above those needed to prevent relapse, rebound, or withdrawal symptoms over the entire course of the interdosing interval.
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