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The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is a systemic reaction, that may occur after the initiation of penicillin therapy in patients with syphilis or other spirochetal infections (i.e., Lyme disease and Relapsing fever). The reaction begins one to two hours after initiation of therapy and disappears within 12 to 24 hours. It is characterized by fever, chills, myalgias, headache, exacerbation of cutaneous lesions, tachycardia, hyperventiliation, vasodilation with flushing and mild hypotension. The pathogenesis of the Herxheimer reaction may be due to the release from the spirochaete of host stable pyrogen.
The reported incidence of allergic reactions to all penicillins ranges from 0.7 to 10 percent in different studies (see WARNINGS). Sensitization is usually the result of previous treatment with a penicillin, but some individuals have had immediate reactions when first treated. In such cases, it is postulated that prior exposure to penicillin may have occurred via trace amounts present in milk or vaccines.
Two types of allergic reactions to penicillin are noted clinically – Immediate and delayed.
Immediate reactions usually occur within 20 minutes of administration and range in severity from urticaria and pruritus to angloneurotic edema, laryngospasm, bronchospasm, hypotension, vascular collapse and death (see WARNINGS). Such immediate anaphylactic reactions are very rare and usually occur after parenteral therapy, but a few cases of anaphylaxis have been reported following oral therapy. Another type of immediate reaction, an accelerated reaction, may occur between 20 minutes and 48 hours after administration and may include urticaria, pruritus, fever and, occasionally, laryngeal edema.
Delayed reactions to penicillin therapy usually occur within 1 to 2 weeks after initiation of therapy. Manifestations include serum sickness-like symptoms, i.e., fever, malaise, urticaria, myalgia, arthralgia, abdominal pain and various skin rashes, ranging from maculopapular eruptions to exfoliative dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis has been observed in individuals who prepare penicillin solutions.
Pseudomembranous colitis has been reported with the onset occurring during or after penicillin G treatment. Nausea, vomiting, stomatitis, black or hairy tongue, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal irritation may occur, especially during oral therapy.
Reactions include neutropenia, which resolves after penicillin therapy is discontinued; Coombspositive hemolytic anemia, an uncommon reaction, occurs in patients treated with intravenous penicillin G in doses greater than 10 million units/day and who have previously received large doses of the drug; and with large doses of penicillin, a bleeding diathesis, can occur secondary to platelet dysfunction.
Buffered Penicillin G Potassium for Injection, USP (1 million units contains 0.3 mEq of sodium and 1.68 mEq of potassium) may cause serious and even fatal electrolyte disturbances, i.e., hyperkalemia, when given intravenously in large doses.
Neurotoxic reactions including hyperreflexia, myoclonic twitches, seizures and coma have been reported following the administration of massive intravenous doses, and are more likely in patients with impaired renal function.
Renal tubular damage and interstitial nephritis have been associated with large intravenous doses of penicillin G. Manifestations of this reaction may include fever, rash, eosinophilia, proteinuria, eosinophiluria, hematuria and a rise in serum urea nitrogen. Discontinuation of penicillin G results in resolution in the majority of patients.
Phlebitis and thrombophlebitis may occur with intravenous administration.
Dose related toxicity may arise with the use of massive doses of intravenous penicillins (40 to 100 million units per day), particularly in patients with severe renal impairment (see PRECAUTIONS). The manifestations may include agitation, confusion, asterixis, hallucinations, stupor, coma, multifocal myoclonus, seizures and encephalopathy. Hyperkalemia is also possible (see ADVERSE REACTIONS – Metabolic).
In case of overdosage, discontinue penicillin, treat symptomatically and institute supportive measures as required. If necessary, hemodialysis may be used to reduce blood levels of penicillin G, although the degree of effectiveness of this procedure is questionable.
Buffered Penicillin G Potassium for Injection, USP may be given intravenously or intramuscularly. The usual dose recommendations are as follows:
This product should not be administered to patients requiring less than one million units per dose. (see PRECAUTIONS – Pediatric Use).
Penicillin G is relatively nontoxic, and dosage adjustments are generally required only in cases of severe renal impairment.
The recommended dosage regimens are as follows: Creatinine clearance less than 10 mL/min/1.73m2; administer a full loading dose (see recommended dosages in the tables above) followed by one-half of the loading dose every 8 to 10 hours.
Uremic patients with a creatinine clearance greater than 10 mL/min/1.73m2; administer a full loading dose (see recommended dosages in the tables above) followed by one-half of the loading dose every 4 to 5 hours.
Additional dosage modifications should be made in patients with hepatic disease and renal impairment.
For most acute infections, treatment should be continued for at least 48 to 72 hours after the patient becomes asymptomatic. Antibiotic therapy for Group A β-hemolytic streptococcal infections should be maintained for at least 10 days to reduce the risk of rheumatic fever.
Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration whenever solution and container permit.
Preparation of Solution
Solutions of penicillin should be prepared as follows: Loosen powder. Hold vial horizontally and rotate it while slowly directing the stream of diluent against the wall of the vial. Shake vial vigorously after all the diluent has been added. Depending on the route of administration, use Sterile Water for Injection, USP or Sterile Isotonic Sodium Chloride Solution for Parenteral use.
Note: Penicillins are rapidly inactivated in the presence of carbohydrate solutions at alkaline pH.
The following table shows the amount of solvent required for solution of various concentrations:
When the required volume of solvent is greater than the capacity of the vial, the penicillin can be dissolved by first injecting only a portion of the solvent into the vial, then withdrawing the resultant solution and combining it with the remainder of the solvent in a larger sterile container.
Penicillin G Potassium for Injection, USP is highly water soluble. It may be dissolved in small amounts of Water for Injection, or Sterile Isotonic Sodium Chloride Solution for Parenteral Use. All solutions should be stored in a refrigerator. When refrigerated, penicillin solutions may be stored for seven days without significant loss of potency.
Buffered Penicillin G Potassium for Injection may be given intramuscularly or by continuous intravenous drip for dosages of 500,000, 1,000,000 or 5,000,000 units. It is also suitable for intrapleural, intraarticular, and other local installations.
THE 20,000,000 UNIT (20 MILLION UNIT) DOSAGE MAY BE ADMINISTERED BY INTRAVENOUS INFUSION ONLY.
(1) Intramuscular Injection: Keep total volume of injection small. The intramuscular route is the preferred route of administration. Solutions containing up to 100,000 units of penicillin per mL of diluent may be used with a minimum of discomfort. Greater concentration of penicillin G per mL is physically possible and may be employed where therapy demands. When large doses are required, it may be advisable to administer aqueous solutions of penicillin by means of continuous intravenous drip.
(2) Continuous Intravenous Drip: Determine the volume of fluid and rate of its administration required by the patient in a 24-hour period in the usual manner for fluid therapy, and add the appropriate daily dosage of penicillin to this fluid. For example, if an adult patient requires 2 liters of fluid in 24 hours and a daily dosage of 10 million units of penicillin, add 5 million units of 1 liter and adjust the rate of flow so the liter will be infused in 12 hours.
(3) Intrapleural or Other Local Infusion: If fluid is aspirated, give infusion in a volume equal to 1/4 or 1/2 the amount of fluid aspirated, otherwise, prepare as for an intramuscular injection.
(4) Intrathecal Use: The intrathecal use of penicillin in meningitis must be highly individualized. It should be employed only with full consideration of the possible irritating effects of penicillin when used by this route. The preferred route of therapy in bacterial meningitides is intravenous, supplemented by intramuscular injection.
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