Brand name: Stelazine
Drug class: Phenothiazines
VA class: CN701
Chemical name: 10-[3-(4-methylpiperazin-1-yl)propyl]-2-(trifluoromethyl)-10H-phenothiazine
Molecular formula: C21H24F3N3S
CAS number: 117-89-5
- Increased Mortality in Geriatric Patients with Dementia-related Psychosis
Geriatric patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic agents are at an increased risk of death.
Analyses of 17 placebo-controlled trials in geriatric patients mainly receiving atypical antipsychotic agents revealed an approximate 1.6- to 1.7-fold increase in mortality compared with that in patients receiving placebo.
Most fatalities appeared to result from cardiovascular-related events (e.g., heart failure, sudden death) or infections (mostly pneumonia).
Observational studies suggest that conventional or first-generation antipsychotic agents also may increase mortality in such patients.
Antipsychotic agents, including trifluoperazine, are not approved for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis.
Propylpiperazine-derivative phenothiazine; conventional (prototypical, first-generation) antipsychotic agent.
Uses for Trifluoperazine
Treatment of schizophrenia.
American Psychiatric Association (APA) considers most atypical antipsychotic agents first-line drugs for management of the acute phase of schizophrenia (including first psychotic episodes). APA considers conventional antipsychotic agents first-line in patients with acute psychotic episodes who have been treated successfully in the past with, or who prefer, conventional agents.
Patients who do not respond to or tolerate one drug may be successfully treated with an agent from a different class or with a different adverse effect profile.
Short-term management of nonpsychotic anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety disorder.
Not established whether trifluoperazine is useful for the management of other nonpsychotic conditions in which anxiety or manifestations that mimic anxiety are evident (e.g., physical illness, organic mental conditions, agitated depression, character pathologies).
Because of the risks of toxicity, use only as an alternative to other less toxic anxiolytic agents (e.g., benzodiazepines) in most patients.
Related/similar drugsAbilify Maintena, duloxetine, escitalopram, alprazolam, Lexapro, quetiapine, aripiprazole
Trifluoperazine Dosage and Administration
Adjust dosage carefully according to individual requirements and response; use the lowest possible effective dosage.
For symptomatic relief of psychotic disorders, optimum therapeutic response usually occurs within 2–3 weeks.
Periodically evaluate patients receiving long-term therapy to determine whether maintenance dosage can be decreased or drug therapy discontinued.
Administered orally. Has been given parenterally† [off-label] as trifluoperazine hydrochloride, but a parenteral dosage form of the drug is no longer commercially available in the US.
Because of the long duration of action, may be administered once or twice daily.
Available as trifluoperazine hydrochloride; dosage expressed in terms of trifluoperazine.
Adjust dosage based on weight and severity of symptoms.
Children 6–12 years of age: Initially, 1 mg once or twice daily for hospitalized or well-supervised children. Gradually increase dosage until symptoms are controlled or adverse effects become troublesome. Most children respond to a dosage of ≤15 mg daily.
Dosage for children <6 years of age not established.
Initially, 2–5 mg given twice daily. Gradually increase dosage until symptoms are controlled or adverse effects become troublesome. Although most patients exhibit optimum response with 15–20 mg daily, dosages up to 40 mg or more daily may be required in some patients.
Usually, 1 or 2 mg twice daily for ≤12 weeks.
Maximum 15 mg daily for children 6–12 years of age. Dosages >15 mg daily should be used only in older children with severe symptoms.
Maximum 6 mg daily; do not administer for >12 weeks.
Generally, select dose at the lower end of recommended range; increase dosage more gradually and monitor closely. (See Geriatric Use under Cautions.)
Debilitated or Emaciated Patients
Increase dosage more gradually.
Cautions for Trifluoperazine
Comatose states or in the presence of large amounts of CNS depressants (e.g., alcohol, barbiturates, opiates). (See Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests under Interactions.)
Bone marrow depression or blood dyscrasias.
Known hypersensitivity to phenothiazines.
Shares the toxic potentials of other phenothiazines; observe the usual precautions of phenothiazine therapy.
Increased Mortality in Geriatric Patients with Dementia-related Psychosis
Increased risk of death with use of either conventional (first-generation) or atypical (second-generation) antipsychotics in geriatric patients with dementia-related psychosis.
Antipsychotic agents, including trifluoperazine, are not approved for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis. (See Increased Mortality in Geriatric Patients with Dementia-related Psychosis in Boxed Warning.)
Tardive dyskinesia, a syndrome of potentially irreversible, involuntary, dyskinetic movements, reported with use of antipsychotic agents, including trifluoperazine.
Reserve long-term antipsychotic treatment for patients with chronic illness known to respond to antipsychotic agents, and for whom alternative, equally effective, but potentially less harmful treatments are not available or appropriate. In patients requiring chronic treatment, use smallest dosage and shortest duration of treatment producing a satisfactory clinical response; periodically reassess need for continued therapy.
APA recommends assessing patients receiving conventional antipsychotic agents for abnormal involuntary movements every 6 months; for patients at increased risk for tardive dyskinesia, assess every 3 months. Consider discontinuance of trifluoperazine if signs and symptoms of tardive dyskinesia appear. However, some patients may require treatment despite the presence of the syndrome.
Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), a potentially fatal syndrome characterized by hyperpyrexia, muscle rigidity, altered mental status, and autonomic instability, reported with antipsychotic agents.
Immediately discontinue therapy and initiate supportive and symptomatic therapy if NMS occurs. Careful monitoring recommended if therapy is reinstituted following recovery; the risk that NMS can recur must be considered.
Concomitant Therapy with Lithium
Although most patients receiving lithium and an antipsychotic agent concurrently do not develop unusual adverse effects, an acute encephalopathic syndrome occasionally has occurred, especially when high serum lithium concentrations were present. (See Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests under Interactions.)
Cognitive and Motor Impairment
May impair mental and/or physical abilities, especially during the first few days of therapy. (See Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests under Interactions and see also Advice to Patients.)
Possible sensitivity reactions (e.g., cholestatic jaundice, blood dyscrasias, skin reactions, photosensitivity). Use generally not recommended in patients who have previously demonstrated a hypersensitivity reaction (e.g., blood dyscrasias, jaundice) to a phenothiazine, unless potential benefits outweigh the possible risks.
Contact dermatitis occurs rarely following skin contact with trifluoperazine hydrochloride preparations; use care to avoid skin contact with preparations of the drug.
Leukopenia, neutropenia, and agranulocytosis temporally related to antipsychotic agents, including trifluoperazine. Thrombocytopenia, anemia, and pancytopenia also reported in patients receiving trifluoperazine.
Possible risk factors for leukopenia and neutropenia include preexisting low WBC count and a history of drug-induced leukopenia or neutropenia. Monitor CBC frequently during the first few months of therapy in patients with such risk factors. Discontinue trifluoperazine at the first sign of a decline in WBC count in the absence of other causative factors.
Carefully monitor patients with clinically important neutropenia for fever or other signs and symptoms of infection and treat promptly if they occur. (See Advice to Patients.) In patients with severe neutropenia (ANC <1000/mm3), discontinue trifluoperazine and monitor WBC until recovery occurs.
Cholestatic jaundice or liver damage reported.
Perform hepatic function tests immediately in patients who develop fever accompanied by flu-like symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, anorexia) during therapy; if hepatic function test results are abnormal, discontinue drug.
Possible hypotension and exacerbation of angina; avoid large dosages in patients with cardiovascular disorders. If severe hypotension occurs, may use norepinephrine or phenylephrine to alleviate; epinephrine should not be used. (See Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests under Interactions.)
Consider possibility of pigmentary retinopathy and lenticular and corneal deposits in patients receiving prolonged therapy. Periodic ophthalmic examinations recommended in patients receiving prolonged phenothiazine therapy with moderate to high dosages. Discontinue drug if ophthalmic examination or visual field studies demonstrate retinal changes.
May cause elevated serum prolactin concentrations, which may persist during chronic administration and cause clinical disturbances (e.g., galactorrhea, amenorrhea, gynecomastia, impotence).
If contemplating trifluoperazine therapy in patient with previously detected breast cancer, consider that approximately one-third of human breast cancers are prolactin-dependent in vitro.
Chromosomal aberrations in spermatocytes and abnormal sperm have been demonstrated in rodents.
Body Temperature Regulation
Phenothiazines depress the hypothalamic mechanism for body temperature regulation; possible hyperthermia or hypothermia when exposed to temperature extremes.
Use with caution in patients exposed to extreme heat or cold.
Possible anticholinergic effects (e.g., dry mouth, blurred vision, mydriasis, constipation, obstipation, nausea, adynamic ileus, atonic colon, urinary retention, decreased perspiration, impotence).
Use with caution in patients with glaucoma.
Antiemetic effects may mask signs of overdosage of other drugs (e.g., antineoplastic agents) or obscure cause of vomiting in various disorders (e.g., intestinal obstruction, Reye’s syndrome, brain tumor).
Risk for extrapyramidal and/or withdrawal symptoms (e.g., agitation, hypertonia, hypotonia, tardive dyskinetic-like symptoms, tremor, somnolence, respiratory distress, feeding disorder) in neonates exposed to antipsychotic agents during the third trimester; monitor neonates exhibiting such symptoms. Symptoms were self-limiting in some neonates but varied in severity; some infants required intensive support and prolonged hospitalization.
Phenothiazines are distributed into milk. Discontinue nursing or the drug.
Safety and efficacy not established in children <6 years of age.
Geriatric patients appear to be particularly sensitive to adverse CNS (e.g., tardive dyskinesia, parkinsonian manifestations, akathisia, sedation), anticholinergic, and cardiovascular (e.g., orthostatic hypotension) effects of antipsychotic agents.
Common Adverse Effects
Extrapyramidal reactions (e.g., Parkinson-like symptoms, dystonia, akathisia), drowsiness, fatigue, muscular weakness, insomnia, blurred vision, skin reactions or rash, anorexia, dry mouth, hypotension, amenorrhea, galactorrhea.
Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests
Drug or Test
Potential decreased effect of oral anticoagulants
Anticonvulsants (e.g., phenytoin)
Trifluoperazine may lower seizure threshold
Trifluoperazine may interfere with phenytoin metabolism and precipitate phenytoin toxicity
Dosage adjustments of anticonvulsants may be necessary
CNS depressants (e.g., alcohol, anesthetics, opiate analgesics, sedative/hypnotics)
Possible additive effects or potentiated action of other CNS depressants
Use with caution to avoid excessive sedation or CNS depression
Possible further lowering of BP
Do not use epinephrine for phenothiazine-induced hypotension (see Cardiovascular Effects under Cautions)
Guanethidine and related compounds
Potential for decreased effectiveness of guanethidine and related compounds
An acute encephalopathic syndrome reported occasionally, especially when high serum lithium concentrations present
Observe patients receiving combined therapy for evidence of adverse neurologic effects; promptly discontinue if such signs or symptoms appear
Increased plasma concentrations of trifluoperazine and propranolol
Test for phenylketonuria (PKU)
Potential false-positive test results
Potential for increased orthostatic hypotension
Phenothiazines are generally well absorbed from the GI tract. Considerable interindividual variation in peak concentrations reported.
Not fully characterized.
Crosses the placenta. Distributed into breast milk.
Plasma Protein Binding
Phenothiazines are highly bound to plasma proteins.
Metabolic fate not fully elucidated. Appears to be extensively metabolized, principally in the liver.
Phenothiazines and their metabolites are excreted in urine and feces.
Tight, light-resistant containers at 20–25°C; protect from moisture.
Precise mechanism(s) of antipsychotic action not determined, but may be principally related to antidopaminergic effects.
Exhibits weak anticholinergic and sedative effects and strong extrapyramidal effects and antiemetic activity.
Advice to Patients
Importance of advising patients and caregivers that geriatric patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic agents are at an increased risk of death. Inform patients and caregivers that trifluoperazine is not approved for treating geriatric patients with dementia-related psychosis.
Potential for drug to impair mental alertness or physical coordination; use caution when driving or operating machinery until effects on individual are known.
Importance of clinicians informing patients in whom chronic trifluoperazine use is contemplated of risk of tardive dyskinesia, taking into account clinical circumstances and competency of patient to understand information provided. Importance of informing patients to report any muscle movements that cannot be stopped.
Importance of avoiding exposure to temperature extremes.
Importance of informing clinician if sore throat or other signs of infection occur.
Importance of informing clinicians of existing or contemplated concomitant therapy, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as any concomitant illnesses (e.g., cardiovascular disease).
Importance of women informing clinicians if they are or plan to become pregnant or plan to breast-feed. Importance of clinicians informing patients about the benefits and risks of taking antipsychotics during pregnancy (see Pregnancy under Cautions). Importance of advising patients not to stop taking trifluoperazine if they become pregnant without consulting their clinician; abruptly stopping antipsychotic agents may cause complications.
Importance of informing patients of other important precautionary information. (See Cautions.)
Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.
Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.
* available from one or more manufacturer, distributor, and/or repackager by generic (nonproprietary) name
1 mg (of trifluoperazine)*
Trifluoperazine Hydrochloride Tablets
2 mg (of trifluoperazine)*
Trifluoperazine Hydrochloride Tablets
5 mg (of trifluoperazine)*
Trifluoperazine Hydrochloride Tablets
10 mg (of trifluoperazine)*
Trifluoperazine Hydrochloride Tablets
AHFS DI Essentials™. © Copyright 2024, Selected Revisions November 15, 2021. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 4500 East-West Highway, Suite 900, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.
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