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Luminal Side Effects

Generic Name: phenobarbital

Note: This page contains information about the side effects of phenobarbital. Some of the dosage forms included on this document may not apply to the brand name Luminal.

For the Consumer

Applies to phenobarbital: oral elixir, oral tablets, parenteral injection

Side effects include:

Residual sedation, drowsiness, lethargy, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, headache.

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to phenobarbital: compounding powder, injectable solution, oral capsule, oral elixir, oral tablet

Nervous system

Nervous system side effects including drowsiness, sedation, lethargy, somnolence, memory impairment, decreased perceptuomotor performance, and impairment of tasks requiring sustained performance have been reported frequently. Paradoxical stimulation and irritability, behavioral problems, impaired cognition, tics, dyskinesias, periodic alternating nystagmus, oculogyric crises, dystonic reactions, and ataxia have also been reported.[Ref]


Respiratory side effects including life threatening respiratory depression have been reported, particularly during acute intoxication.[Ref]


Withdrawal symptoms may include sweating, insomnia, hallucinations, and hypertension.[Ref]

Other side effects from phenobarbital include physical and psychological dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if phenobarbital therapy is discontinued suddenly. An increased frequency of seizures may also occur if phenobarbital therapy is suddenly discontinued. Dupuytren's contractures have also been reported.[Ref]


Musculoskeletal side effects including reflex sympathetic dystrophy of the upper extremities, the "shoulder-hand syndrome", and other musculoskeletal and joint pains have been reported in as many as 5% of patients treated with phenobarbital (the active ingredient contained in Luminal) Myopathy in association with anticonvulsant osteomalacia has also been reported.[Ref]


Hypersensitivity side effects including generalized rashes, fever, and hepatic derangements have been reported frequently. Nephritis has also been reported as a consequence of hypersensitivity to phenobarbital (the active ingredient contained in Luminal) A case of a fatal anticonvulsant hypersensitivity syndrome has been reported in an infant.[Ref]


Hepatic side effects including elevated liver function tests, hepatitis, cholestasis, and fulminant hepatic failure have been reported. Mild enzyme elevation is common and often represents enzyme induction and not hepatic pathology.[Ref]

The more serious hepatic effects have often been reported in association with hypersensitivity reactions.[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects including toxic epidermal necrolysis, pemphigus vulgaris, photosensitivity, acneiform rash, and purpura have been reported.[Ref]


Gastrointestinal side effects including a case of esophagitis have been reported.[Ref]


Hematologic side effects including macrocytosis and, more rarely, megaloblastic anemia have been reported.[Ref]


Endocrine side effects including alterations in vitamin D metabolism have been reported in patients taking phenobarbital (the active ingredient contained in Luminal) and other anticonvulsants. Hypocalcemia and osteomalacia have also been reported.[Ref]


Metabolic side effects including an increase in the hepatic metabolism of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) have been reported.[Ref]


Oncologic side effects including an increased frequency of malignancy (particularly brain tumors, lung cancer, and liver cancer) have been reported. However, other investigators have not found an association with malignancy.[Ref]


Genitourinary side effects including Peyronie's disease have been reported.[Ref]


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8. Schwankhaus JD, Kattah JC, Lux WE, Masucci EF, Kurtzke JF "Primidone/phenobarbital-induced periodic alternating nystagmus." Ann Ophthalmol 21 (1989): 230-2

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Not all side effects for Luminal may be reported. You should always consult a doctor or healthcare professional for medical advice. Side effects can be reported to the FDA here.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.