Promethazine with Codeine (Page 8 of 11)

9.6 Dependence

Psychological dependence, physical dependence, and tolerance may develop upon repeated administration of opioids; therefore, Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution should be prescribed and administered for the shortest duration that is consistent with individual patient treatment goals and patients should be reevaluated prior to refills [see Dosage and Administration (2.3), Warnings and Precautions (5.1)].

Physical dependence, the condition in which continued administration of the drug is required to prevent the appearance of a withdrawal syndrome, assumes clinically significant proportions only after several weeks of continued oral opioid use, although some mild degree of physical dependence may develop after a few days of opioid therapy.

If Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution is abruptly discontinued in a physically-dependent patient, a withdrawal syndrome may occur. Withdrawal also may be precipitated through the administration of drugs with opioid antagonist activity (e.g., naloxone, nalmefene), mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics (e.g., pentazocine, butorphanol, nalbuphine), or partial agonists (e.g., buprenorphine). Some or all of the following can characterize this syndrome: restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other signs and symptoms also may develop, including irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate.

Infants born to mothers physically dependent on opioids will also be physically dependent and may exhibit respiratory difficulties and withdrawal signs [see Use in Specific Populations (8.1) ].


Clinical Presentation


Acute overdose with codeine is characterized by respiratory depression (a decrease in respiratory rate and/or tidal volume, Cheyne-Stokes respiration, cyanosis), extreme somnolence progressing to stupor or coma, skeletal muscle flaccidity, cold and clammy skin, constricted pupils, and, in some cases, pulmonary edema, bradycardia, partial or complete airway obstruction, atypical snoring, hypotension, circulatory collapse, cardiac arrest, and death.

Codeine may cause 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 origin may produce similar findings). Marked mydriasis rather than miosis may be seen with hypoxia in overdose situations [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.2) ].


Signs and symptoms of overdosage with promethazine range from mild depression of the central nervous system and cardiovascular system to profound hypotension, respiratory depression, unconsciousness and sudden death. Other reported reactions include hyperreflexia, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis and extensor-plantar reflexes (Babinski reflex).

Stimulation may be evident, especially in children and geriatric patients. Convulsions may rarely occur. A paradoxical reaction has been reported in children receiving single doses of 75 mg to 125 mg orally, characterized by hyperexcitability and nightmares.

Atropine-like signs and symptoms (dry mouth, fixed dilated pupils, flushing, tachycardia, hallucinations, gastrointestinal symptoms, convulsions, urinary retention, cardiac arrhythmias and coma) may be observed.

Impaired secretion from sweat glands following toxic doses of drugs with anticholinergic side effects may predispose to hyperthermia.

Treatment of Overdose

Treatment of overdosage is driven by the overall clinical presentation, and consists of discontinuation of Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution together with institution of appropriate therapy. Give primary attention to the reestablishment of adequate respiratory exchange through provision of a patent and protected airway and the institution of assisted or controlled ventilation. Employ other supportive measures (including oxygen and vasopressors) in the management of circulatory shock and pulmonary edema as indicated. Cardiac arrest or arrhythmias will require advanced life-support techniques. Gastric emptying may be useful in removing unabsorbed drug.

The opioid antagonists, naloxone and nalmefene, are specific antidotes for respiratory depression resulting from opioid overdose. For clinically significant respiratory or circulatory depression secondary to codeine overdose, administer an opioid antagonist. An antagonist should not be administered in the absence of clinically significant respiratory depression. Because the duration of opioid reversal is expected to be less than the duration of action of codeine in Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution, carefully monitor the patient until spontaneous respiration is reliably reestablished. If the response to an opioid antagonist is suboptimal or only brief in nature, administer additional antagonist as directed by the product’s prescribing information. The respiratory depressant effects of promethazine are not reversed by opioid antagonists, such as naloxone.

Because of the potential for promethazine to reverse epinephrine’s vasopressor effect, epinephrine should NOT be used to treat hypotension associated with promethazine overdose.

Hemodialysis is not routinely used to enhance the elimination of codeine or promethazine from the body.


Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution contains codeine, an opioid agonist, and promethazine, a phenothiazine.

Each 5 mL of Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution contains 10 mg of codeine phosphate and 6.25 mg of promethazine hydrochloride for oral administration.

Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution has a pH between 4.8 and 5.4 and contains alcohol 7%.

Promethazine with Codeine Oral Solution also contains the following inactive ingredients: artificial and natural flavors, citric acid, D&C Red 33, FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Yellow 6, glycerin, saccharin sodium, sodium benzoate, sodium citrate, sodium propionate, water, and other ingredients.

Codeine Phosphate

The chemical name for codeine phosphate is 7,8-Didehydro-4, 5α-epoxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6α-ol phosphate (1:1) (salt) hemihydrate. Codeine is one of the naturally occurring phenanthrene alkaloids of opium derived from the opium poppy, it is classified pharmacologically as a narcotic analgesic. The phosphate salt of codeine occurs as white, needle-shaped crystals or white crystalline powder. Codeine phosphate is freely soluble in water and slightly soluble in alcohol. The molecular weight is 406.37. Its molecular formula is C18 H21 NO3 •H3 PO4 • ½ H2 O, and it has the following chemical structure.

Chemical Structure

Promethazine Hydrochloride

The chemical name for promethazine hydrochloride, a phenothiazine derivative, is (±)-10-[2-(Dimethylamino)propyl] phenothiazine monohydrochloride. Promethazine hydrochloride occurs as a white to faint yellow, practically odorless, crystalline powder which slowly oxidizes and turns blue on prolonged exposure to air. It is soluble in water and freely soluble in alcohol. The molecular weight is 320.88. Its molecular formula is C17H20N2S•HCl, and it has the following chemical structure.

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12.4 Mechanism of Action


Codeine is an opioid agonist relatively selective for the mu-opioid receptor, but with a much weaker affinity than morphine. The analgesic and antitussive properties of codeine have been speculated to come from its conversion to morphine. The precise mechanism of action of codeine and other opiates is not known; however, codeine is believed to act centrally on the cough center. In excessive doses, codeine will depress respiration.


Promethazine is a phenothiazine derivative, which differs structurally from the antipsychotic phenothiazines by the presence of a branched side chain and no ring substitution. Promethazine possesses antihistamine (H1 receptor antagonist), antiemetic, sedative, and anticholinergic effects. It prevents released histamine from dilating capillaries and causing edema of the respiratory mucosa.

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