To ensure that the benefits of opioid analgesics outweigh the risks of addiction, abuse, and misuse, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for these products. Under the requirements of the REMS, drug companies with approved opioid analgesic products must make REMS-compliant education programs available to healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are strongly encouraged to do all of the following:
- Complete a REMS-compliant education program offered by an accredited provider of continuing education (CE) or another education program that includes all the elements of the FDA Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain.
- Discuss the safe use, serious risks, and proper storage and disposal of opioid analgesics with patients and/or their caregivers every time these medicines are prescribed. The Patient Counseling Guide (PCG) can be obtained at this link: www.fda.gov/OpioidAnalgesicREMSPCG.
- Emphasize to patients and their caregivers the importance of reading the Medication Guide that they will receive from their pharmacist every time an opioid analgesic is dispensed to them.
- Consider using other tools to improve patient, household, and community safety, such as patient-prescriber agreements that reinforce patient-prescriber responsibilities.
To obtain further information on the opioid analgesic REMS and for a list of accredited REMS CME/CE, call 1-800-503-0784, or log on to www.opioidanalgesicrems.com. The FDA Blueprint can be found at www.fda.gov/OpioidAnalgesicREMSBlueprint.
Serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression has been reported with the use of opioids, even when used as recommended. Respiratory depression, if not immediately recognized and treated, may lead to respiratory arrest and death. Management of respiratory depression may include close observation, supportive measures, and use of opioid antagonists, depending on the patient’s clinical status [see OVERDOSAGE]. Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) retention from opioid-induced respiratory depression can exacerbate the sedating effects of opioids.
While serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression can occur at any time during the use of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets, the risk is greatest during the initiation of therapy or following a dosage increase. Monitor patients closely for respiratory depression, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours of initiating therapy with and following dosage increases of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets.
To reduce the risk of respiratory depression, proper dosing and titration of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets are essential [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. Overestimating the hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets dosage when converting patients from another opioid product can result in a fatal overdose.
Accidental ingestion of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets, especially by children, can result in respiratory depression and death due to an overdose of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets.
Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help right away in the event of a known or suspected overdose [see PRECAUTIONS, Information for Patients/Caregivers].
Opioids can cause sleep-related breathing disorders including central sleep apnea (CSA) and sleep-related hypoxemia. Opioid use increases the risk of CSA in a dose-dependent fashion. In patients who present with CSA, consider decreasing the opioid dosage using best practices for opioid taper [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION] .
Discuss the availability of naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose with the patient and caregiver and assess the potential need for access to naloxone, both when initiating and renewing treatment with hydrocodone and acetaminophen tablets. Inform patients and caregivers about the various ways to obtain naloxone as permitted by individual state naloxone dispensing and prescribing requirements or guidelines (e.g., by prescription, directly from a pharmacist, or as part of a community-based program). Educate patients and caregivers on how to recognize respiratory depression and emphasize the importance of calling 911 or getting emergency medical help, even if naloxone is administered [see PRECAUTIONS, Information for Patients/Caregivers].
Consider prescribing naloxone, based on the patient’s risk factors for overdose, such as concomitant use of other CNS depressants, a history of opioid use disorder, or prior opioid overdose. The presence of risk factors for overdose should not prevent the proper management of pain in any given patient. Also consider prescribing naloxone if the patient has household members (including children) or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or overdose. If naloxone is prescribed, educate patients and caregivers on how to treat with naloxone [see WARNINGS, Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse, Risks from Concomitant Use with Benzodiazepines or Other CNS Depressants; PRECAUTIONS, Information for Patients/Caregivers].
Prolonged use of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets during pregnancy can result in withdrawal in the neonate. Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, unlike opioid withdrawal syndrome in adults, may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated, and requires management according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. Observe newborns for signs of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and manage accordingly. Advise pregnant women using opioids for a prolonged period of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available [see PRECAUTIONS; Information for Patients/Caregivers, Pregnancy].
Concomitant use of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets with a CYP3A4 inhibitor, such as macrolide antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin), azole-antifungal agents (e.g., ketoconazole), and protease inhibitors (e.g., ritonavir), may increase plasma concentrations of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets and prolong opioid adverse reactions, which may cause potentially fatal respiratory depression [see WARNINGS], particularly when an inhibitor is added after a stable dose of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets is achieved. Similarly, discontinuation of a CYP3A4 inducer, such as rifampin, carbamazepine, and phenytoin, in hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets-treated patients may increase hydrocodone plasma concentrations and prolong opioid adverse reactions. When adding CYP3A4 inhibitors or discontinuing CYP3A4 inducers in hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets-treated patients, follow patients at frequent intervals and consider dosage reduction of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets until stable drug effects are achieved [see PRECAUTIONS; Drug Interactions].
Concomitant use of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets with CYP3A4 inducers or discontinuation of an CYP3A4 inhibitor could decrease hydrocodone plasma concentrations, decrease opioid efficacy or, possibly, lead to a withdrawal syndrome in a patient who had developed physical dependence to hydrocodone. When using hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets with CYP3A4 inducers or discontinuing CYP3A4 inhibitors, follow patients at frequent intervals and consider increasing the opioid dosage if needed to maintain adequate analgesia or if symptoms of opioid withdrawal occur [see PRECAUTIONS; Drug Interactions].
Profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death may result from the concomitant use of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants (e.g., non-benzodiazepine sedatives/hypnotics, anxiolytics, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, general anesthetics, antipsychotics, other opioids, alcohol). Because of these risks, reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate.
Observational studies have demonstrated that concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increases the risk of drug-related mortality compared to use of opioid analgesics alone. Because of similar pharmacological properties, it is reasonable to expect similar risk with the concomitant use of other CNS depressant drugs with opioid analgesics [see PRECAUTIONS; Drug Interactions].
If the decision is made to prescribe a benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant concomitantly with an opioid analgesic, prescribe the lowest effective dosages and minimum durations of concomitant use. In patients already receiving an opioid analgesic, prescribe a lower initial dose of the benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant than indicated in the absence of an opioid, and titrate based on clinical response. If an opioid analgesic is initiated in a patient already taking a benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant, prescribe a lower initial dose of the opioid analgesic, and titrate based on clinical response. Follow patients closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation. If concomitant use is warranted, consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose [see WARNINGS, Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression; DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Patient Access to Naloxone for the Emergency Treatment of Opioid Overdose].
Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of respiratory depression and sedation when hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen tablets are used with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants (including alcohol and illicit drugs). Advise patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until the effects of concomitant use of the benzodiazepine or other CNS depressant have been determined. Screen patients for risk of substance use disorders, including opioid abuse and misuse, and warn them of the risk for overdose and death associated with the use of additional CNS depressants including alcohol and illicit drugs [see PRECAUTIONS; Drug Interactions, Information for Patients/Caregivers].
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