In clinical trials, carvedilol caused bradycardia in about 2% of hypertensive subjects, 9% of subjects with heart failure, and 6.5% of subjects with myocardial infarction and left ventricular dysfunction. If pulse rate drops below 55 beats per minute, the dosage should be reduced.
In clinical trials of primarily mild-to-moderate heart failure, hypotension and postural hypotension occurred in 9.7% and syncope in 3.4% of subjects receiving carvedilol compared with 3.6% and 2.5% of placebo subjects, respectively. The risk for these events was highest during the first 30 days of dosing, corresponding to the up-titration period and was a cause for discontinuation of therapy in 0.7% of subjects receiving carvedilol, compared with 0.4% of placebo subjects. In a long-term, placebo-controlled trial in severe heart failure (COPERNICUS), hypotension and postural hypotension occurred in 15.1% and syncope in 2.9% of heart failure subjects receiving carvedilol compared with 8.7% and 2.3% of placebo subjects, respectively. These events were a cause for discontinuation of therapy in 1.1% of subjects receiving carvedilol, compared with 0.8% of placebo subjects.
Postural hypotension occurred in 1.8% and syncope in 0.1% of hypertensive subjects, primarily following the initial dose or at the time of dose increase and was a cause for discontinuation of therapy in 1% of subjects.
In the CAPRICORN trial of survivors of an acute myocardial infarction, hypotension or postural hypotension occurred in 20.2% of subjects receiving carvedilol compared with 12.6% of placebo subjects. Syncope was reported in 3.9% and 1.9% of subjects, respectively. These events were a cause for discontinuation of therapy in 2.5% of subjects receiving carvedilol, compared with 0.2% of placebo subjects.
Starting with a low dose, administration with food, and gradual up-titration should decrease the likelihood of syncope or excessive hypotension [see Dosage and Administration (2.1, 2.2, 2.3)]. During initiation of therapy, the patient should be cautioned to avoid situations such as driving or hazardous tasks, where injury could result should syncope occur.
Worsening heart failure or fluid retention may occur during up-titration of carvedilol. If such symptoms occur, diuretics should be increased and the carvedilol dose should not be advanced until clinical stability resumes [see Dosage and Administration (2)]. Occasionally it is necessary to lower the carvedilol dose or temporarily discontinue it. Such episodes do not preclude subsequent successful titration of, or a favorable response to, carvedilol. In a placebo-controlled trial of subjects with severe heart failure, worsening heart failure during the first 3 months was reported to a similar degree with carvedilol and with placebo. When treatment was maintained beyond 3 months, worsening heart failure was reported less frequently in subjects treated with carvedilol than with placebo. Worsening heart failure observed during long-term therapy is more likely to be related to the patients’ underlying disease than to treatment with carvedilol.
Patients with bronchospastic disease (e.g., chronic bronchitis, emphysema) should, in general, not receive β-blockers. Carvedilol may be used with caution, however, in patients who do not respond to, or cannot tolerate, other antihypertensive agents. It is prudent, if carvedilol is used, to use the smallest effective dose, so that inhibition of endogenous or exogenous β-agonists is minimized.
In clinical trials of subjects with heart failure, subjects with bronchospastic disease were enrolled if they did not require oral or inhaled medication to treat their bronchospastic disease. In such patients, it is recommended that carvedilol be used with caution. The dosing recommendations should be followed closely and the dose should be lowered if any evidence of bronchospasm is observed during up-titration.
Beta-blockers may prevent early warning signs of hypoglycemia, such as tachycardia, and increase the risk for severe or prolonged hypoglycemia at any time during treatment, especially in patients with diabetes mellitus or children and patients who are fasting (i.e., surgery, not eating regularly, or are vomiting). If severe hypoglycemia occurs, patients should be instructed to seek emergency treatment.
In patients with heart failure and diabetes, carvedilol therapy may lead to worsening hyperglycemia, which responds to intensification of hypoglycemic therapy. It is recommended that blood glucose be monitored when carvedilol dosing is initiated, adjusted, or discontinued. Trials designed to examine the effects of carvedilol on glycemic control in patients with diabetes and heart failure have not been conducted.
In a trial designed to examine the effects of carvedilol on glycemic control in a population with mild-to-moderate hypertension and well-controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus, carvedilol had no adverse effect on glycemic control, based on HbA1c measurements [see Clinical Studies (14.4)].
β-blockers can precipitate or aggravate symptoms of arterial insufficiency in patients with peripheral vascular disease. Caution should be exercised in such individuals.
Rarely, use of carvedilol in patients with heart failure has resulted in deterioration of renal function. Patients at risk appear to be those with low blood pressure (systolic blood pressure less than 100 mm Hg), ischemic heart disease and diffuse vascular disease, and/or underlying renal insufficiency. Renal function has returned to baseline when carvedilol was stopped. In patients with these risk factors, it is recommended that renal function be monitored during up-titration of carvedilol and the drug discontinued or dosage reduced if worsening of renal function occurs.
Chronically administered β-blocking therapy should not be routinely withdrawn prior to major surgery; however, the impaired ability of the heart to respond to reflex adrenergic stimuli may augment the risks of general anesthesia and surgical procedures.
β-adrenergic blockade may mask clinical signs of hyperthyroidism, such as tachycardia. Abrupt withdrawal of β-blockade may be followed by an exacerbation of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or may precipitate thyroid storm.
In patients with pheochromocytoma, an α-blocking agent should be initiated prior to the use of any β-blocking agent. Although carvedilol has both α- and β-blocking pharmacologic activities, there has been no experience with its use in this condition. Therefore, caution should be taken in the administration of carvedilol to patients suspected of having pheochromocytoma.
Agents with non-selective β-blocking activity may provoke chest pain in patients with Prinzmetal’s variant angina. There has been no clinical experience with carvedilol in these patients although the α-blocking activity may prevent such symptoms. However, caution should be taken in the administration of carvedilol to patients suspected of having Prinzmetal’s variant angina.
While taking β-blockers, patients with a history of severe anaphylactic reaction to a variety of allergens may be more reactive to repeated challenge, either accidental, diagnostic, or therapeutic. Such patients may be unresponsive to the usual doses of epinephrine used to treat allergic reaction.
Intraoperative Floppy Iris Syndrome (IFIS) has been observed during cataract surgery in some patients treated with alpha-1 blockers (carvedilol is an alpha/beta blocker). This variant of small pupil syndrome is characterized by the combination of a flaccid iris that billows in response to intraoperative irrigation currents, progressive intraoperative miosis despite preoperative dilation with standard mydriatic drugs, and potential prolapse of the iris toward the phacoemulsification incisions. The patient’s ophthalmologist should be prepared for possible modifications to the surgical technique, such as utilization of iris hooks, iris dilator rings, or viscoelastic substances. There does not appear to be a benefit of stopping alpha-1 blocker therapy prior to cataract surgery.
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