Prescribing metronidazole in the absence of a proven or strongly suspected bacterial or parasitic infection or a prophylactic indication is unlikely to provide benefit to the patient and increases the risk of the development of drug-resistant bacteria and parasites.
Discontinue consumption of alcoholic beverages or products containing propylene glycol while taking metronidazole and for at least three days afterward because abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and flushing may occur (see CONTRAINDICATIONS and PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions).
Patients should be counseled that metronidazole should only be used to treat bacterial and parasitic infections. Metronidazole does not treat viral infections (e.g., the common cold). When metronidazole is prescribed to treat a bacterial infection, patients should be told that although it is common to feel better early in the course of therapy, the medication should be taken exactly as directed. Skipping doses or not completing the full course of therapy may (1) decrease the effectiveness of the immediate treatment and (2) increase the likelihood that bacteria will develop resistance and will not be treatable by metronidazole in the future.
Psychotic reactions have been reported in alcoholic patients who are using metronidazole and disulfiram concurrently. Metronidazole should not be given to patients who have taken disulfiram within the last two weeks (see CONTRAINDICATIONS).
Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and flushing may occur if alcoholic beverages or products containing propylene glycol are consumed during or following metronidazole therapy (see CONTRAINDICATIONS).
Metronidazole has been reported to potentiate the anticoagulant effect of warfarin and other oral coumarin anticoagulants, resulting in a prolongation of prothrombin time. When metronidazole is prescribed for patients on this type of anticoagulant therapy, prothrombin time and INR should be carefully monitored.
In patients stabilized on relatively high doses of lithium, short-term metronidazole therapy has been associated with elevation of serum lithium and, in a few cases, signs of lithium toxicity. Serum lithium and serum creatinine levels should be obtained several days after beginning metronidazole to detect any increase that may precede clinical symptoms of lithium intoxication.
Metronidazole has been reported to increase plasma concentrations of busulfan, which can result in an increased risk for serious busulfan toxicity. Metronidazole should not be administered concomitantly with busulfan unless the benefit outweighs the risk. If no therapeutic alternatives to metronidazole are available, and concomitant administration with busulfan is medically needed, frequent monitoring of busulfan plasma concentration should be performed and the busulfan dose should be adjusted accordingly.
The simultaneous administration of drugs that decrease microsomal liver enzyme activity, such as cimetidine, may prolong the half-life and decrease plasma clearance of metronidazole.
The simultaneous administration of drugs that induce microsomal liver enzymes, such as phenytoin or phenobarbital, may accelerate the elimination of metronidazole, resulting in reduced plasma levels; impaired clearance of phenytoin has also been reported.
Metronidazole may interfere with certain types of determinations of serum chemistry values, such as aspartate aminotransferase (AST, SGOT), alanine aminotransferase (ALT, SGPT), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), triglycerides, and glucose hexokinase. Values of zero may be observed. All of the assays in which interference has been reported involve enzymatic coupling of the assay to oxidation-reduction of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+ ↔ NADH). Interference is due to the similarity in absorbance peaks of NADH (340 nm) and metronidazole (322 nm) at pH 7.
Tumors affecting the liver, lungs, mammary, and lymphatic tissues have been detected in several studies of metronidazole in rats and mice, but not hamsters.
Pulmonary tumors have been observed in all six reported studies in the mouse, including one study in which the animals were dosed on an intermittent schedule (administration during every fourth week only). Malignant liver tumors were increased in male mice treated at approximately 1500 mg/m2 (similar to the maximum recommended daily dose, based on body surface area comparisons). Malignant lymphomas and pulmonary neoplasms were also increased with lifetime feeding of the drug to mice. Mammary and hepatic tumors were increased among female rats administered oral metronidazole compared to concurrent controls. Two lifetime tumorigenicity studies in hamsters have been performed and reported to be negative.
Metronidazole has shown mutagenic activity in in vitro assay systems including the Ames test. Studies in mammals in vivo have failed to demonstrate a potential for genetic damage.
Metronidazole failed to produce any adverse effects on fertility or testicular function in male rats at doses up at 400 mg/kg/day (similar to the maximum recommended clinical dose, based on body surface area comparisons) for 28 days. However, rats treated at the same dose for 6 weeks or longer were infertile and showed severe degeneration of the seminiferous epithelium in the testes as well as marked decreases in testicular spermatid counts and epididymal sperm counts. Fertility was restored in most rats after an eight week, drug-free recovery period.
Teratogenic Effects: Pregnancy Category B
There are no adequate and well controlled studies of metronidazole in pregnant women. There are published data from case-control studies, cohort studies, and 2 meta-analyses that include more than 5000 pregnant women who used metronidazole during pregnancy. Many studies
included first trimester exposures. One study showed an increased risk of cleft lip, with or without cleft palate, in infants exposed to metronidazole in-utero ; however, these findings were not confirmed. In addition, more than ten randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials enrolled more than 5000 pregnant women to assess the use of antibiotic treatment (including metronidazole) for bacterial vaginosis on the incidence of preterm delivery. Most studies did not show an increased risk for congenital anomalies or other adverse fetal outcomes following metronidazole exposure during pregnancy. Three studies conducted to assess the risk of infant cancer following metronidazole exposure during pregnancy did not show an increased risk; however, the ability of these studies to detect such a signal was limited.
Metronidazole crosses the placental barrier and its effects on the human fetal organogenesis are not known. Reproduction studies have been performed in rats, rabbits, and mice at doses similar to the maximum recommended human dose based on body surface area comparisons.
There was no evidence of harm to the fetus due to metronidazole.
Metronidazole is present in human milk at concentrations similar to maternal serum levels, and infant serum levels can be close to or comparable to infant therapeutic levels. Because of the potential for tumorigenicity shown for metronidazole in mouse and rat studies, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother. Alternatively, a nursing mother may choose to pump and discard human milk for the duration of metronidazole therapy, and for 24 hours after therapy ends and feed her infant stored human milk or formula.
In elderly geriatric patients, monitoring for metronidazole associated adverse events is recommended (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, PRECAUTIONS). Decreased liver function in geriatric patients can result in increased concentrations of metronidazole that may necessitate adjustment of metronidazole dosage (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established, except for the treatment of amebiasis.
The following reactions have been reported during treatment with metronidazole:
Central Nervous System: The most serious adverse reactions reported in patients treated with metronidazole have been convulsive seizures, encephalopathy, aseptic meningitis, optic and peripheral neuropathy, the latter characterized mainly by numbness or paresthesia of an extremity.Since persistent peripheral neuropathy has been reported in some patients receiving prolonged administration of metronidazole, patients should be specifically warned about these reactions and should be told to stop the drug and report immediately to their physicians if any neurologic symptoms occur. In addition, patients have reported headache, syncope, dizziness, vertigo, incoordination, ataxia, confusion, dysarthria, irritability, depression, weakness, and insomnia (see WARNINGS).
Gastrointestinal: The most common adverse reactions reported have been referable to the gastrointestinal tract, particularly nausea, sometimes accompanied by headache, anorexia, and occasionally vomiting; diarrhea; epigastric distress; and abdominal cramping and constipation.
Mouth: A sharp, unpleasant metallic taste is not unusual. Furry tongue, glossitis, and stomatitis have occurred; these may be associated with a sudden overgrowth of Candida which may occur
Dermatologic: Erythematous rash and pruritus.
Hematopoietic: Reversible neutropenia (leukopenia); rarely, reversible thrombocytopenia.
Cardiovascular: Flattening of the T-wave may be seen in electrocardiographic tracings.
Hypersensitivity: Urticaria, erythematous rash, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, flushing, nasal congestion, dryness of the mouth (or vagina or vulva), and fever.
Renal: Dysuria, cystitis, polyuria, incontinence, and a sense of pelvic pressure. Instances of darkened urine have been reported by approximately one patient in 100,000. Although the pigment which is probably\ responsible for this phenomenon has not been positively identified, it is almost certainly a metabolite of metronidazole and seems to have no clinical significance.
Other: Proliferation of Candida in the vagina, dyspareunia, decrease of libido, proctitis, and fleeting joint pains sometimes resembling “serum sickness.” Rare cases of pancreatitis, which generally abated on withdrawal of the drug, have been reported.
Patients with Crohn’s disease are known to have an increased incidence of gastrointestinal and certain extraintestinal cancers. There have been some reports in the medical literature of breast and colon cancer in Crohn’s disease patients who have been treated with metronidazole at high doses for extended periods of time. A cause and effect relationship has not been established. Crohn’s disease is not an approved indication or metronidazole tablets.
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