Hydrocodone is full opioid agonist with relative selectivity for the mu-opioid (μ) receptor, although it can interact with other opioid receptors at higher doses. The principal therapeutic action of hydrocodone is analgesia. Like all full opioid agonists, there is no ceiling effect for analgesia with hydrocodone. Clinically, dosage is titrated to provide adequate analgesia and may be limited by adverse reactions, including respiratory and CNS depression.
The precise mechanism of the analgesic action is unknown. However, specific CNS opioid receptors for endogenous compounds with opioid-like activity have been identified throughout the brain and spinal cord and are thought to play a role in the analgesic effects of this drug.
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
The principal therapeutic action of hydrocodone is analgesia. Hydrocodone 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.
Hydrocodone 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.
Therapeutic doses of acetaminophen have negligible effects on the cardiovascular or respiratory systems; however, toxic doses may cause circulatory failure and rapid, shallow breathing.
Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract and Other Smooth Muscle
Hydrocodone 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
Hydrocodone 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 symptoms as low libido, impotence, erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, or infertility. The causal role of opioids in the 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 hydrocodone 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 hydrocodone 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.
Following a 10 mg oral dose of hydrocodone administered to five adult male subjects, the mean peak concentration was 23.6 ± 5.2 ng/mL. Maximum serum levels were achieved at 1.3 ± 0.3 hours and the half-life was determined to be 3.8 ± 0.3 hours.
Hydrocodone exhibits a complex pattern of metabolism including O-demethylation, N-demethylation and 6-keto reduction to the corresponding 6-α- and 6-β-hydroxymetabolites. See OVERDOSAGE for toxicity information.
CYP3A4 mediated N-demethylation to norhydrocodone is the primary metabolic pathway of hydrocodone with a lower contribution from CYP2D6 mediated O-demethylation to hydromorphone. Hydromorphone is formed from the O-demethylation of hydrocodone and may contribute to the total analgesic effect of hydrocodone. Therefore, the formation of these and related metabolites can, in theory, be affected by other drugs ( see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions). N-demethylation of hydrocodone to form norhydrocodone via CYP3A4 while O-demethylation of hydrocodone to hydromorphone is predominantly catalyzed by CYP2D6 and to a lesser extent by an unknown low affinity CYP enzyme. Hydrocodone and its metabolites are eliminated primarily in the kidneys.
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.
Hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets are indicated for the management of pain severe enough to require an opioid analgesic 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 hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options (e.g., non-opioid analgesics):
have not been tolerated, or are not expected to be tolerated,
have not provided adequate analgesia, or are not expected to provide adequate analgesia
Hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen 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)
Known or suspected gastrointestinal obstruction, including paralytic ileus ( see WARNINGS)
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