The majority of available data from clinical trials, observational studies, case series, and case reports on methadone use in pregnancy do not indicate an increased risk of major malformations specifically due to methadone.
Pregnant women involved in methadone maintenance programs have been reported to have improved prenatal care leading to reduced incidence of obstetric and fetal complications and neonatal morbidity and mortality when compared to women using illicit drugs. Several factors, including maternal use of illicit drugs, nutrition, infection and psychosocial circumstances, complicate the interpretation of investigations of the children of women who take methadone during pregnancy. Information is limited regarding dose and duration of methadone use during pregnancy, and most maternal exposure in these studies appears to occur after the first trimester of pregnancy (see Data).
Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) is an expected and treatable outcome of prolonged use of opioids during pregnancy [see Warnings and Precautions (5.6)].
In published animal reproduction studies, methadone administered subcutaneously during the early gestational period produced neural tube defects (i.e., exencephaly and cranioschisis) in the hamster at doses 2 times the human daily oral dose of 120 mg/day on a mg/m2 basis (HDD) and in mice at doses equivalent to the HDD. Administration of methadone to pregnant animals during organogenesis and through lactation resulted decreased litter size, increased pup mortality, decreased pup body weights, developmental delays, and long-term neurochemical changes in the brain of offspring which correlate with altered behavioral responses that persist through adulthood at exposures comparable to and less than the HDD. Administration of methadone to male rodents prior to mating with untreated females resulted in increased neonatal mortality and significant differences in behavioral tests in the offspring at exposures comparable to and less than the HDD (see Data). Based on animal data, advise pregnant women of the potential risk to a fetus.
The estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown. All pregnancies have a background risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2% to 4% and 15% to 20%, respectively.
Disease-Associated Maternal and Embryo-Fetal Risk
Untreated opioid addiction in pregnancy is associated with adverse obstetrical outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and fetal death. In addition, untreated opioid addiction often results in continued or relapsing illicit opioid use.
Dosage Adjustment During Pregnancy
Dosage adjustment using higher doses or administering the daily dose in divided doses may be necessary in pregnant women treated with Methadone Hydrochloride. Pregnant women appear to have significantly lower trough plasma methadone concentrations, increased plasma methadone clearance, and shorter methadone half-life than after delivery [see Dosage and Administration (2.9), Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)]. Withdrawal signs and symptoms should be closely monitored and the dose adjusted as necessary.
Fetal/Neonatal Adverse Reactions
Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome may occur in newborn infants of mothers who are receiving treatment with Methadone Hydrochloride.
Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome presents as irritability, hyperactivity and abnormal sleep pattern, high-pitched cry, tremor, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or failure to gain weight. Signs of neonatal withdrawal usually occur in the first days after birth. The duration and severity of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome may vary. Observe newborns for signs of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and manage accordingly [see Warnings and Precautions (5.6)].
Labor or Delivery
Opioid-dependent women on methadone maintenance therapy may require additional analgesia during labor.
Monitor neonates exposed to opioid analgesics during labor for signs of excess sedation and respiratory depression.
The majority of available data from clinical trials, observational studies, case series, and case reports on methadone use in pregnancy do not indicate an increased risk of major malformations specifically due to methadone. Findings regarding specific major malformations, decreased fetal growth, premature birth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome have been inconsistent. Children prenatally exposed to methadone have been reported to demonstrate mild but persistent deficits in performance on psychometric and behavioral tests and visual abnormalities.
In a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial [Maternal Opioid Treatment: Human Experimental Research (MOTHER)] designed primarily to assess neonatal opioid withdrawal effects, opioid-dependent pregnant women were randomized to buprenorphine (n=86) or methadone (n=89) treatment, with enrollment at an average gestational age of 18.7 weeks in both groups. A total of 28 of the 86 women in the buprenorphine group (33%) and 16 of the 89 women in the methadone group (18%) discontinued treatment before the end of pregnancy.
Among women who remained in treatment until delivery, there was no difference between methadone-treated and buprenorphine-treated groups in the number of neonates requiring NOWS treatment or in the peak severity of NOWS. Buprenorphine-exposed neonates required less morphine (mean total dose, 1.1 mg vs. 10.4 mg), had shorter hospital stays (10.0 days vs. 17.5 days), and shorter duration of treatment for NOWS (4.1 days vs. 9.9 days) compared to the methadone-exposed group. There were no differences between groups in other primary outcomes (neonatal head circumference,) or secondary outcomes (weight and length at birth, preterm birth, gestational age at delivery, and 1-minute and 5-minute Apgar scores), or in the rates of maternal or neonatal adverse events. The outcomes among mothers who discontinued treatment before delivery and may have relapsed to illicit opioid use are not known. Because of the imbalance in discontinuation rates between the methadone and buprenorphine groups, the study findings are difficult to interpret.
Formal reproductive and developmental toxicology studies for methadone have not been conducted. Exposure margins for the following published study reports are based on a human daily dose (HDD) of 120 mg methadone using a body surface area comparison.
In a published study in pregnant hamsters, a single subcutaneous dose of methadone ranging from 31 mg/kg (2 times the HDD) to 185 mg/kg on Gestation Day 8 resulted in a decrease in the number of fetuses per litter and an increase in the percentage of fetuses exhibiting neural tube defects including exencephaly, cranioschisis, and “various other lesions.” The majority of the doses tested also resulted in maternal death. In a study in pregnant JBT/Jd mice, a single subcutaneous dose of 22 to 24 mg/kg methadone (approximately equivalent to the HDD) administered on Gestation Day 9 produced exencephaly in 11% of the embryos. In another study in pregnant mice, subcutaneous doses up to 28 mg/kg/day methadone (equivalent to the HDD) administered from Gestation Day 6 to 15 resulted in no malformations, but there were increased postimplantation loss and decreased live fetuses at 10 mg/kg/day or greater (0.4 times the HDD) and decreased ossification and fetal body weight at 20 mg/kg/day or greater (0.8 times the HDD). In a second study of pregnant mice dosed with subcutaneous doses up to 28 mg/kg/day methadone from Gestation Day 6 to 15, there was decreased pup viability, delayed onset of development of negative phototaxis and eye opening, increased righting reflexes at 5 mg/kg/day or greater (0.2 times the HDD), and decreased number of live pups at birth and decreased pup weight gain at 20 mg/kg/day or greater (0.8 times the HDD).
No effects were reported in a study of pregnant rats and rabbits at oral doses up to 40 mg/kg (3 and 6 times, respectively, the HDD) administered from Gestation Days 6 to 15 and 6 to 18, respectively.
When pregnant rats were treated with intraperitoneal doses of 2.5, 5, or 7.5 mg/kg methadone from one week prior to mating, through gestation until the end of lactation period, 5 mg/kg or greater (0.4 times the HDD) methadone resulted in decreases in litter size and live pups born and 7.5 mg/kg (0.6 times the HDD) resulted in decreased birth weights. Furthermore, decreased pup viability and pup body weight gain at 2.5 mg/kg or greater (0.2 times the HDD) were noted during the preweaning period.
Additional animal data demonstrate evidence for neurochemical changes in the brains of offspring from methadone-treated pregnant rats, including changes to the cholinergic, dopaminergic, noradrenergic, and serotonergic systems at doses below the HDD. Other animal studies have reported that prenatal and/or postnatal exposure to opioids including methadone alters neuronal development and behavior in the offspring including alterations in learning ability, motor activity, thermal regulation, nociceptive responses, and sensitivity to drugs at doses below the HDD. Treatment of pregnant rats subcutaneously with 5 mg/kg methadone from Gestation Day 14 to 19 (0.4 times the HDD) reduced fetal blood testosterone and androstenedione in males.
Published animal data have reported increased neonatal mortality in the offspring of male rodents that were treated with methadone at doses comparable to and less than the HDD for 1 to 12 days before and/or during mating (with more pronounced effects in the first 4 days). In these studies, the female rodents were not treated with methadone, indicating paternally-mediated developmental toxicity. Specifically, methadone administered to the male rat prior to mating with methadone-naïve females resulted in decreased weight gain in progeny after weaning. The male progeny demonstrated reduced thymus weights, whereas the female progeny demonstrated increased adrenal weights. Behavioral testing of these male and female progeny revealed significant differences in behavioral tests compared to control animals, suggesting that paternal methadone exposure can produce physiological and behavioral changes in progeny in this model. Examination of uterine contents of methadone-naïve female mice bred to methadone-treated male mice (once a day for three consecutive days) indicated that methadone treatment produced an increase in the rate of preimplantation deaths in all post-meiotic states at 1 mg/kg/day or greater (0.04 times the HDD). Chromosome analysis revealed a dose-dependent increase in the frequency of chromosomal abnormalities at 1 mg/kg/day or greater.
Studies demonstrated that methadone treatment of male rats for 21 to 32 days prior to mating with methadone-naïve females did not produce any adverse effects, suggesting that prolonged methadone treatment of the male rat resulted in tolerance to the developmental toxicities noted in the progeny. Mechanistic studies in this rat model suggest that the developmental effects of “paternal” methadone on the progeny appear to be due to decreased testosterone production. These animal data mirror the reported clinical findings of decreased testosterone levels in human males on methadone maintenance therapy for opioid addiction and in males receiving chronic intraspinal opioids.
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