Addition, Abuse, and Misuse; Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression; Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS)
Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression
- Deaths, cardiac and respiratory, have been reported during initiation and conversion of pain patients to methadone treatment from treatment with other opioid agonists. It is critical to understand the pharmacokinetics of methadone when converting patients from other opioids
- Particular vigilance is necessary during treatment initiation, during conversion from one opioid to another, and during dose titration. Respiratory depression is the chief hazard associated with methadone hydrochloride administration.
- Methadone's peak respiratory depressant effects typically occur later, and persist longer than its peak analgesic effects, particularly in the early dosing period. These characteristics can contribute to cases of iatrogenic overdose, particularly during treatment initiation and dos e titration. In addition, cases of QT interval prolongation and serious arrhythmia (torsades de pointes) have been observed during treatment with methadone. Most cases involve patients being treated for pain with large, multiple daily doses of methadone, although cases have been reported in patients receiving doses commonly us ed for maintenance treatment of opioid addiction.
- 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.
- Methadone treatment for analgesic therapy in patients with acute or chronic pain should only be initiated if the potential analgesic or palliative care benefit of treatment with methadone is considered and outweighs the risks.
- Conditions For Distribution And Us e Of Methadone Products For The Treatment Of Opioid Addiction Code of Federal Regulations, Title 42, Sec 8 Methadone products when used for the treatment of opioid addiction in detoxification or maintenance programs, shall be dispensed only by opioid treatment programs (and agencies, practitioners or institutions by formal agreement with the program sponsor) certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and approved by the designated state authority. Certified treatment programs shall dispense and use methadone in oral form only and according to the treatment requirements stipulated in the Federal Opioid Treatment Standards (42 CFR 8.12). See below for important regulatory exceptions to the general requirement for certification to provide opioid agonist treatment. Failure to abide by the requirements in these regulations may result in criminal prosecution, seizure of the drug supply, revocation of the program approval, and injunction precluding operation of the program.
- Consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Risk From Concomitant Use With Benzodiazepine or Other CNS Depressants
Concomitant use of opioids with benzodiazepines or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, including alcohol, may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death
- Reserve concomitant prescribing of DOLOPHINE Tablets and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants for use in patients for whom alternatives to benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants are inadequate.
- Limit dosages and durations to the minimum required for patients being treated for pain.
- Follow patients for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation. If the patient is visibly sedated, evaluate the cause of sedation, and consider delaying or omitting the daily methadone dose.
Opioid Analgesic Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS)
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 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:
- complete a REMS-compliant education program,
- counsel patients and/or their caregivers, with every prescription, on safe use, serious risks, storage, and disposal of these products,
- emphasize to patients and their caregivers the importance of reading the Medication Guide every time it is provided by their pharmacist, and
- consider other tools to improve patient, household, and community safety.
FDA and Industry Communications
Approved Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS)
Patient Counseling Information