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Nembutal Sodium (injection)

Generic Name: pentobarbital (injection) (PEN toe BAR bi tal)
Brand Name: Nembutal Sodium

Medically reviewed on March 10, 2017

What is Nembutal Sodium?

Nembutal Sodium is a barbiturate (bar-BIT-chur-ate). This medicine slows the activity of your brain and nervous system.

Nembutal Sodium is used short-term as a sedative to treat insomnia, or to cause you to fall asleep for surgery. This medicine is also used as an emergency treatment for seizures.

Nembutal Sodium may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not use Nembutal Sodium if you have a history of porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system).

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to Nembutal Sodium or other barbiturates (butabarbital, phenobarbital, Luminal, Seconal, and others), or if you have:

  • a history of porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system).

To make sure Nembutal Sodium is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

Using Nembutal Sodium during pregnancy could harm the unborn baby. If you use this medicine while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on habit-forming medicine may need medical treatment for several weeks. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Nembutal Sodium can make birth control pills less effective. Ask your doctor about using a non-hormonal birth control (condom, diaphragm with spermicide) to prevent pregnancy.

Sedatives used during surgery may affect brain development in a child under 3, or an unborn baby whose mother receives this medicine during late pregnancy. These effects may be more likely when the medicine is used for 3 hours or longer, or used for repeated procedures. Effects on brain development could cause learning or behavior problems later in life.

Negative brain effects from anesthesia have been seen in animal studies. However, studies in human children receiving single short uses of anesthesia have not shown a likely effect on behavior or learning. More research is needed.

In some cases, your doctor may decide to postpone a surgery based on these risks. Treatment may not be delayed in the case of life-threatening conditions, medical emergencies, or surgery needed to correct certain birth defects.

Ask your doctor for information about all medicines that will be used during your surgery, and how long the surgery will last.

Pentobarbital can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How is Nembutal Sodium given?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not use Nembutal Sodium in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Nembutal Sodium may be habit-forming. Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.

Nembutal Sodium is injected into a muscle, or into a vein through an IV. A healthcare provider will usually give you this injection.

You may be shown how to use Nembutal Sodium at home. Do not give yourself this medicine if you do not understand how to use the injection and properly dispose of needles, IV tubing, and other items used.

When injected into a vein, Nembutal Sodium must be given slowly.

Your breathing, blood pressure, oxygen levels, kidney function, and other vital signs will be watched closely after you receive Nembutal Sodium in a hospital setting.

Do not use Nembutal Sodium if it has changed colors or has particles in it. Call your pharmacist for new medication.

Use a disposable needle and syringe only once. Follow any state or local laws about throwing away used needles and syringes. Use a puncture-proof "sharps" disposal container (ask your pharmacist where to get one and how to throw it away). Keep this container out of the reach of children and pets.

If you use this medicine long-term, you may need frequent medical tests.

Do not stop using this medicine suddenly after long-term use, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to safely stop using Nembutal Sodium.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not freeze.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since Nembutal Sodium is often used only when needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are on a schedule, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of Nembutal Sodium. An overdose of pentobarbital can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, weak or limp feeling, slow or shallow breathing, weak pulse, rapid heart rate, little or no urination, pinpoint or dilated pupils, feeling cold, or fainting.

What should I avoid while taking Nembutal Sodium?

Nembutal Sodium can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Do not drink alcohol. Dangerous side effects can occur when alcohol is combined with Nembutal Sodium.

Nembutal Sodium side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • confusion, agitation, hallucinations;

  • weak or shallow breathing;

  • slow heart rate, weak pulse; or

  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out.

Side effects such as confusion, depression, or excitement may be more likely in older adults and those who are ill or debilitated.

Common side effects may include:

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect Nembutal Sodium?

Using Nembutal Sodium with other drugs that make you sleepy or slow your breathing can cause dangerous or life-threatening side effects. Ask your doctor before taking a sleeping pill, narcotic pain medicine, prescription cough medicine, a muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.

Tell your doctor about all other medications you use, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with pentobarbital, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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