Teratogenic Effects: Pregnancy Category C. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. There are reports of ophthalmic abnormalities occurring in infants born to women on antituberculous therapy that included ethambutol hydrochloride. Ethambutol hydrochloride should be used during pregnancy only if the benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Ethambutol hydrochloride has been shown to be teratogenic in pregnant mice and rabbits when given in high doses. When pregnant mice or rabbits were treated with high doses of ethambutol hydrochloride, fetal mortality was slightly but not significantly (P>0.05) increased. Female rats treated with ethambutol hydrochloride displayed slight but insignificant (P>0.05) decreases in fertility and litter size. In fetuses born of mice treated with high doses of ethambutol hydrochloride during pregnancy, a low incidence of cleft palate, exencephaly and abnormality of the vertebral column were observed. Minor abnormalities of the cervical vertebra were seen in the newborn of rats treated with high doses of ethambutol hydrochloride during pregnancy. Rabbits receiving high doses of ethambutol hydrochloride during pregnancy gave birth to two fetuses with monophthalmia, one with a shortened right forearm accompanied by bilateral wrist-joint contracture and one with hare lip and cleft palate.
Ethambutol hydrochloride is excreted into breast milk. The use of ethambutol hydrochloride should be considered only if the expected benefit to the mother outweighs the potential risk to the infant.
Ethambutol hydrochloride is not recommended for use in pediatric patients under thirteen years of age since safe conditions for use have not been established.
There are limited data on the use of ethambutol hydrochloride in the elderly. One study of 101 patients, 65 years and older, on multiple drug antituberculosis regimens included 94 patients on ethambutol hydrochloride. No differences in safety or tolerability were observed in these patients compared with that reported in adults in general. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients, but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.
Ethambutol hydrochloride may produce decreases in visual acuity, including irreversible blindness, which appear to be due to optic neuritis. Optic neuropathy including optic neuritis or retrobulbar neuritis occurring in association with ethambutol therapy may be characterized by one or more of the following events: decreased visual acuity, scotoma, color blindness, and/or visual defect. These events have also been reported in the absence of a diagnosis of optic or retrobulbar neuritis.
Patients should be advised to report promptly to their physician any change of visual acuity.
The change in visual acuity may be unilateral or bilateral and hence each eye must be tested separately and both eyes tested together. Testing of visual acuity should be performed before beginning ethambutol hydrochloride therapy and periodically during drug administration, except that it should be done monthly when a patient is on a dosage of more than 15 mg per kilogram per day. Snellen eye charts are recommended for testing of visual acuity. Studies have shown that there are definite fluctuations of one or two lines of the Snellen chart in the visual acuity of many tuberculous patients not receiving ethambutol.
The following table may be useful in interpreting possible changes in visual acuity attributable to ethambutol.
|Initial Snellen Reading||Reading Indicating Significant Decrease||Significant Number of Lines||Decrease Number of Points|
In general, changes in visual acuity less than those indicated under “Significant Number of Lines” and “Decrease Number of Points”, may be due to chance variation, limitations of the testing method or physiologic variability. Conversely, changes in visual acuity equaling or exceeding those under “Significant Number of Lines” and “Decrease Number of Points” indicate the need for retesting and careful evaluation of the patient’s visual status. If careful evaluation confirms the magnitude of visual change and fails to reveal another cause, ethambutol should be discontinued and the patient reevaluated at frequent intervals. Progressive decreases in visual acuity during therapy must be considered to be due to ethambutol.
If corrective glasses are used prior to treatment, these must be worn during visual acuity testing. During 1 to 2 years of therapy, a refractive error may develop which must be corrected in order to obtain accurate test results. Testing the visual acuity through a pinhole eliminates refractive error. Patients developing visual abnormality during ethambutol treatment may show subjective visual symptoms before, or simultaneously with, the demonstration of decreases in visual acuity, and all patients receiving ethambutol should be questioned periodically about blurred vision and other subjective eye symptoms.
Recovery of visual acuity generally occurs over a period of weeks to months after the drug has been discontinued. Some patients have received ethambutol hydrochloride again after such recovery without recurrence of loss of visual acuity. Other adverse reactions reported include: hypersensitivity, anaphylactic/anaphylactoid reaction, dermatitis, erythema multiforme, pruritus, and joint pain; anorexia, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, and abdominal pain; fever, malaise, headache, and dizziness; mental confusion, disorientation, and possible hallucinations; thrombocytopenia, leucopenia, and neutropenia. Numbness and tingling of the extremities due to peripheral neuritis have been reported. Elevated serum uric acid levels occur and precipitation of acute gout has been reported. Pulmonary infiltrates, with or without eosinophilia, also have been reported during ethambutol hydrochloride therapy. Liver toxicities, including fatalities, have been reported. (See WARNINGS). Since ethambutol hydrochloride is recommended for therapy in conjunction with one or more other antituberculous drugs, these changes may be related to the concurrent therapy. Hypersensitivity syndrome consisting of cutaneous reaction (such as rash or exfoliative dermatitis), eosinophilia, and one or more of the following: hepatitis, pneumonitis, nephritis, myocarditis, pericarditis. Fever and lymphadenopathy may be present.
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