- Codeine Phosphate
- Codeine Sulfate
Excipient information presented when available (limited, particularly for generics); consult specific product labeling. [DSC] = Discontinued product
Solution, Oral, as sulfate:
Generic: 30 mg/5 mL (500 mL [DSC])
Tablet, Oral, as sulfate:
Generic: 15 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg
- Analgesic, Opioid
Binds to opioid receptors in the CNS, causing inhibition of ascending pain pathways, altering the perception of and response to pain; causes cough suppression by direct central action in the medulla; produces generalized CNS depression
~3 to 6 L/kg
Hepatic via UGT2B7 and UGT2B4 to codeine-6-glucuronide, via CYP2D6 to morphine (active), and via CYP3A4 to norcodeine. Morphine is further metabolized via glucuronidation to morphine-3-glucuronide and morphine-6-glucuronide (active).
Urine (~90%, ~10% of the total dose as unchanged drug); feces
Onset of Action
Oral: Immediate release: 0.5 to 1 hour; Peak effect: Oral: Immediate release: 1 to 1.5 hours
Time to Peak
Plasma: Immediate release: 1 hour; Controlled release [Canadian product]: 3.3 hours
Duration of Action
Immediate release: 4 to 6 hours
~7% to 25%
Use: Labeled Indications
Pain management: Management of mild to moderate pain, where treatment with an opioid is appropriate and for which alternative treatments are inadequate.
Limitations of use: Reserve codeine for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options (eg, nonopioid analgesics, opioid combination products) are ineffective, not tolerated, or would be otherwise inadequate.
Off Label Uses
Cough in select patients (short-term relief)
Based on the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) guidelines on cough suppressant and pharmacologic protussive therapy, the use of codeine (among other central cough suppressants such as dextromethorphan) in patients with chronic bronchitis is recommended for the short-term symptomatic relief of coughing.
Restless legs syndrome
Evidence from noncontrolled trials suggests that the use of opioids, including codeine, may be of benefit in the treatment of RLS in adults, particularly in those who do not respond to dopaminergics or other therapies. Guideline recommendations are conflicting. American Academy of Sleep Medicine guidelines note that low-level evidences supports use of opioids, including codeine, in the management of RLS [AASM [Aurora 2012]]. The Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation suggests the use of low-potency opioids (eg, codeine or tramadol) may be helpful [Silber 2013]. EFNS/ENS/ESRS task force guidelines state evidence is insufficient to make a recommendation regarding opioids [EFNS/ENS/ESRS [Garcia-Borreguero 2012]].
Hypersensitivity (eg, anaphylaxis) to codeine or any component of the formulation; significant respiratory depression; acute or severe bronchial asthma in an unmonitored setting or in the absence of resuscitative equipment ; GI obstruction, including paralytic ileus (known or suspected); postoperative pain management in children who have undergone tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy; concurrent use with MAOIs or use of MAOIs within the last 14 days.
Canadian labeling: Additional contraindications (not in US labeling): Cor pulmonale; hypercarbia; acute alcoholism; delirium tremens; severe CNS depression; convulsive disorders; increased cerebrospinal or intracranial pressure; head injury; chronic obstructive airway disease; mechanical GI obstruction or any disease that affects bowel transit (known or suspected); suspected surgical abdomen (eg, acute appendicitis or pancreatitis); pregnancy and during labor and delivery; children <12 years.
Additional product specific contraindications: Codeine Contin: Acute or mild pain that can be managed with immediate release pain medication; intermittent or short duration pain that can be managed with alternative pain medication; breastfeeding.
Documentation of allergenic cross-reactivity for opioids is limited. However, because of similarities in chemical structure and/or pharmacologic actions, the possibility of cross-sensitivity cannot be ruled out with certainty.
Note: Codeine 30 mg per 5 mL oral solution has been discontinued for more than 1 year.
Cough (off-label use): Oral: Reported doses vary; range: 7.5 to 120 mg/day as a single dose or in divided doses (Bolser 2006; Smith 2010); Note: The American College of Chest Physicians does not recommend the routine use of codeine as an antitussive in patients with upper respiratory infections (Bolser 2006).
Pain management: Oral: Note: These are guidelines and do not represent the maximum doses that may be required in all patients. Doses should be titrated to pain relief/prevention.
Immediate release (tablet, oral solution): Initial: 15 to 60 mg every 4 hours as needed; maximum total daily dose: 360 mg/day; patients with prior opioid exposure may require higher initial doses. Note: The American Pain Society recommends an initial dose of 30 to 60 mg for adults with moderate pain (American Pain Society 2008).
Discontinuation of therapy: For patients on long-term opioid therapy, decrease dose by 25% to 50% every 2 to 4 days; monitor carefully for signs/symptoms of withdrawal. If patient displays withdrawal symptoms, increase dose to the previous level and then reduce dose more slowly by increasing interval between dose reductions, decreasing amount of daily dose reduction, or both. Do not abruptly discontinue.
Controlled release: Codeine Contin [Canadian product]: Note: Titrate at intervals of ≥48 hours until adequate analgesia has been achieved. Daily doses >600 mg/day should not be used; patients requiring higher doses should be switched to an opioid approved for use in severe pain. In patients who receive both Codeine Contin and an immediate release or combination codeine product for breakthrough pain, the rescue dose of immediate release codeine product should be ≤12.5% of the total daily Codeine Contin dose.
Opioid-naive patients: Initial: 50 mg every 12 hours
Conversion from immediate release codeine preparations: Immediate release codeine preparations contain ~75% codeine base. Therefore, patients who are switching from immediate release codeine preparations may be transferred to a ~25% lower total daily dose of Codeine Contin, equally divided into 2 daily doses every 12 hours.
Conversion from a combination codeine product (eg, codeine with acetaminophen or aspirin): See table:
Number of 30 mg Codeine Combination Tablets Daily
Initial Dose of Codeine Contin
Maintenance Dose of Codeine Contin
50 mg every 12 hours
100 mg every 12 hours
100 mg every 12 hours
150 mg every 12 hours
150 mg every 12 hours
200 mg every 12 hours
200 mg every 12 hours
As needed (maximum: 300 mg every 12 hours)
Table has been converted to the following text.
Number of 30 mg codeine combination tablets daily: ≤6 tablets/day
Initial dose of Codeine Contin: 50 mg every 12 hours
Maintenance dose of Codeine Contin: 100 mg every 12 hours
Number of 30 mg codeine combination tablets daily: 7-9 tablets/day
Initial dose of Codeine Contin: 100 mg every 12 hours
Maintenance dose of Codeine Contin: 150 mg every 12 hours
Number of 30 mg codeine combination tablets daily: 10-12 tablets/day
Initial dose of Codeine Contin: 150 mg every 12 hours
Maintenance dose of Codeine Contin: 200 mg every 12 hours
Number of 30 mg codeine combination tablets daily: >12 tablets/day
Initial dose of Codeine Contin: 200 mg every 12 hours
Maintenance dose of Codeine Contin: As needed (maximum: 300 mg every 12 hours)
Conversion from another opioid analgesic: Using the patient's current opioid dose, calculate an equivalent daily dose of immediate release codeine. A ~25% lower dose of Codeine Contin should then be initiated, equally divided into 2 daily doses.
Discontinuation of therapy: Note: Gradual dose reduction is recommended if clinically appropriate. Initially reduce the total daily dose by 50% and administer equally divided into 2 daily doses for 2 days followed by a 25% reduction every 2 days thereafter.
Restless leg syndrome (off-label use): Oral: Initial: 30 mg once daily at bedtime or during the night; may increase to 60 mg if needed; maximum dose: 180 mg in 2 to 3 divided doses. May be used alone or in combination with other medications used to treat RLS (Earley 2003, Sandyk 1987, Silbers 2013, Walters 2001).
Refer to adult dosing. Use with caution and consider initiation at the low end of the dosing range; reduced initial dosages may be necessary.
Note: Codeine 30 mg per 5 mL oral solution has been discontinued for more than 1 year.
Note: The FDA has recommended that codeine not be used in pediatric patients <12 years of age and all pediatric patients undergoing tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy due to increased risk of breathing problems (sometimes fatal). Slowed or difficult breathing has been reported in pediatric patients <18 years of age; risk may be increased in pediatric patients who are obese or have conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea or severe lung disease, or who are ultrarapid metabolizers of the drug (FDA 2015; FDA 2017).
Pain management (off-label): Children and Adolescents: Oral: Note: These are guidelines and do not represent the maximum doses that may be required in all patients. Doses should be titrated to pain relief/prevention.
Immediate release (tablet, oral solution): Initial: 0.5 to 1 mg/kg/dose every 4 hours as needed; maximum: 60 mg/dose (American Pain Society 2008).
Dosing: Renal Impairment
There are no specific dosage adjustments provided in the manufacturers labeling; however, clearance may be reduced and active metabolites may accumulate in patients with renal failure. Initiate at lower doses or longer dosing intervals followed by careful titration in these patients.
Alternate recommendations: The following guidelines have been used by some clinicians (Aronoff 2007):
CrCl 10 to 50 mL/minute: Administer 75% of dose.
CrCl <10 mL/minute: Administer 50% of dose.
Dosing: Hepatic Impairment
There are no dosage adjustments provided in the manufacturer's labeling (has not been studied); however, lower initial doses or longer dosing intervals followed by careful titration are recommended.
A 3 mg/mL oral suspension may be made with codeine phosphate powder, USP. Add 600 mg of powder to a 400 mL beaker. Add 2.5 mL of Sterile Water for Irrigation, USP, and stir to dissolve the powder. Mix for 10 minutes while adding Ora-Sweet to make 200 mL; transfer to a calibrated bottle. Stable 98 days at room temperature.Dentinger PJ and Swenson CF, "Stability of Codeine Phosphate in an Extemporaneously Compounded Syrup," Am J Health Syst Pharm, 2007, 64(24):2569-73.18056945
Administer without regard to meals. Take with food or milk to decrease adverse GI effects.
Controlled release tablets: Codeine Contin [Canadian product]: Tablets should be swallowed whole; do not chew, dissolve, or crush. All strengths may be halved, except the 50 mg tablets; half tablets should also be swallowed intact.
Immediate release tablet, oral solution: Store at 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). Protect from moisture and light.
Controlled release tablet [Canadian product]: Store at 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F).
Alvimopan: Analgesics (Opioid) may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Alvimopan. This is most notable for patients receiving long-term (i.e., more than 7 days) opiates prior to alvimopan initiation. Management: Alvimopan is contraindicated in patients receiving therapeutic doses of opioids for more than 7 consecutive days immediately prior to alvimopan initiation. Consider therapy modification
Amphetamines: May enhance the analgesic effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Monitor therapy
Analgesics (Opioid): CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Management: Avoid concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants when possible. These agents should only be combined if alternative treatment options are inadequate. If combined, limit the dosages and duration of each drug. Consider therapy modification
Anticholinergic Agents: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Specifically, the risk for constipation and urinary retention may be increased with this combination. Monitor therapy
Azelastine (Nasal): CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Azelastine (Nasal). Avoid combination
Blonanserin: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Blonanserin. Consider therapy modification
Brimonidine (Topical): May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Cannabis: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Chlormethiazole: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Management: Monitor closely for evidence of excessive CNS depression. The chlormethiazole labeling states that an appropriately reduced dose should be used if such a combination must be used. Consider therapy modification
Chlorphenesin Carbamate: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
CNS Depressants: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Management: Avoid concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants when possible. These agents should only be combined if alternative treatment options are inadequate. If combined, limit the dosages and duration of each drug. Consider therapy modification
CYP2D6 Inhibitors (Moderate): May diminish the therapeutic effect of Codeine. These CYP2D6 inhibitors may prevent the metabolic conversion of codeine to its active metabolite morphine. Monitor therapy
CYP2D6 Inhibitors (Strong): May diminish the therapeutic effect of Codeine. These CYP2D6 inhibitors may prevent the metabolic conversion of codeine to its active metabolite morphine. Consider therapy modification
Desmopressin: Analgesics (Opioid) may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Desmopressin. Monitor therapy
Dimethindene (Topical): May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Diuretics: Analgesics (Opioid) may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Diuretics. Analgesics (Opioid) may diminish the therapeutic effect of Diuretics. Monitor therapy
Dronabinol: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Droperidol: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Management: Consider dose reductions of droperidol or of other CNS agents (e.g., opioids, barbiturates) with concomitant use. Consider therapy modification
Eluxadoline: Analgesics (Opioid) may enhance the constipating effect of Eluxadoline. Avoid combination
Flunitrazepam: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Flunitrazepam. Consider therapy modification
Gastrointestinal Agents (Prokinetic): Analgesics (Opioid) may diminish the therapeutic effect of Gastrointestinal Agents (Prokinetic). Monitor therapy
HYDROcodone: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of HYDROcodone. Management: Avoid concomitant use of hydrocodone and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants when possible. These agents should only be combined if alternative treatment options are inadequate. If combined, limit the dosages and duration of each drug. Consider therapy modification
Kava Kava: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Lofexidine: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Magnesium Sulfate: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
MAO Inhibitors: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Codeine. Monitor therapy
Methotrimeprazine: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Methotrimeprazine. Management: Reduce adult dose of CNS depressant agents by 50% with initiation of concomitant methotrimeprazine therapy. Further CNS depressant dosage adjustments should be initiated only after clinically effective methotrimeprazine dose is established. Consider therapy modification
MetyroSINE: CNS Depressants may enhance the sedative effect of MetyroSINE. Monitor therapy
Minocycline: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Mixed Agonist / Antagonist Opioids: May diminish the analgesic effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Management: Seek alternatives to mixed agonist/antagonist opioids in patients receiving pure opioid agonists, and monitor for symptoms of therapeutic failure/high dose requirements (or withdrawal in opioid-dependent patients) if patients receive these combinations. Avoid combination
Nabilone: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Nalmefene: May diminish the therapeutic effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Management: Avoid the concomitant use of nalmefene and opioid analgesics. Discontinue nalmefene 1 week prior to any anticipated use of opioid analgesics. If combined, larger doses of opioid analgesics will likely be required. Consider therapy modification
Naltrexone: May diminish the therapeutic effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Management: Seek therapeutic alternatives to opioids. See full drug interaction monograph for detailed recommendations. Consider therapy modification
Orphenadrine: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Orphenadrine. Avoid combination
Oxomemazine: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Avoid combination
OxyCODONE: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of OxyCODONE. Management: Avoid concomitant use of oxycodone and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants when possible. These agents should only be combined if alternative treatment options are inadequate. If combined, limit the dosages and duration of each drug. Consider therapy modification
Paraldehyde: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Paraldehyde. Avoid combination
Pegvisomant: Analgesics (Opioid) may diminish the therapeutic effect of Pegvisomant. Monitor therapy
Perampanel: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Management: Patients taking perampanel with any other drug that has CNS depressant activities should avoid complex and high-risk activities, particularly those such as driving that require alertness and coordination, until they have experience using the combination. Consider therapy modification
Piribedil: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Piribedil. Monitor therapy
Pramipexole: CNS Depressants may enhance the sedative effect of Pramipexole. Monitor therapy
Ramosetron: Analgesics (Opioid) may enhance the constipating effect of Ramosetron. Monitor therapy
ROPINIRole: CNS Depressants may enhance the sedative effect of ROPINIRole. Monitor therapy
Rotigotine: CNS Depressants may enhance the sedative effect of Rotigotine. Monitor therapy
Rufinamide: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of CNS Depressants. Specifically, sleepiness and dizziness may be enhanced. Monitor therapy
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors: CNS Depressants may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Specifically, the risk of psychomotor impairment may be enhanced. Monitor therapy
Serotonin Modulators: Analgesics (Opioid) may enhance the serotonergic effect of Serotonin Modulators. This could result in serotonin syndrome. Exceptions: Nicergoline. Monitor therapy
Sodium Oxybate: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Management: Consider alternatives to combined use. When combined use is needed, consider minimizing doses of one or more drugs. Use of sodium oxybate with alcohol or sedative hypnotics is contraindicated. Consider therapy modification
Somatostatin Analogs: May decrease the metabolism of Codeine. The formation of two major codeine metabolites (morphine and norcodeine) may be impaired by somatostatin analogs. Monitor therapy
Succinylcholine: May enhance the bradycardic effect of Analgesics (Opioid). Monitor therapy
Suvorexant: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Suvorexant. Management: Dose reduction of suvorexant and/or any other CNS depressant may be necessary. Use of suvorexant with alcohol is not recommended, and the use of suvorexant with any other drug to treat insomnia is not recommended. Consider therapy modification
Tapentadol: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Management: Avoid concomitant use of tapentadol and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants when possible. These agents should only be combined if alternative treatment options are inadequate. If combined, limit the dosages and duration of each drug. Consider therapy modification
Tetrahydrocannabinol: May enhance the CNS depressant effect of CNS Depressants. Monitor therapy
Thalidomide: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Thalidomide. Avoid combination
Zolpidem: CNS Depressants may enhance the CNS depressant effect of Zolpidem. Management: Reduce the Intermezzo brand sublingual zolpidem adult dose to 1.75 mg for men who are also receiving other CNS depressants. No such dose change is recommended for women. Avoid use with other CNS depressants at bedtime; avoid use with alcohol. Consider therapy modification
Some quinolones may produce a false-positive urine screening result for opioids using commercially-available immunoassay kits. This has been demonstrated most consistently for levofloxacin and ofloxacin, but other quinolones have shown cross-reactivity in certain assay kits. Confirmation of positive opioid screens by more specific methods should be considered.
Frequency not defined.
Cardiovascular: Bradycardia, cardiac arrest, circulatory depression, flushing, hypertension, hypotension, palpitations, shock, syncope, tachycardia
Central nervous system: Abnormal dreams, agitation, anxiety, apprehension, ataxia, chills, depression, disorientation, dizziness, drowsiness, dysphoria, euphoria, fatigue, hallucination, headache, increased intracranial pressure, insomnia, nervousness, paresthesia, sedation, shakiness, taste disorder, vertigo
Dermatologic: Diaphoresis, pruritus, skin rash, urticaria
Gastrointestinal: Abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, anorexia, biliary tract spasm, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, pancreatitis, vomiting, xerostomia
Genitourinary: Urinary hesitancy, urinary retention
Hypersensitivity: Hypersensitivity reaction
Neuromuscular & skeletal: Laryngospasm, muscle rigidity, tremor, weakness
Ophthalmic: Blurred vision, diplopia, miosis, nystagmus, visual disturbance
Respiratory: Bronchospasm, dyspnea, respiratory arrest, respiratory depression
<1% (Limited to important or life-threatening): Hypogonadism (Brennan, 2013; Debono, 2011)
Concerns related to adverse effects:
• CNS depression: May cause CNS depression, which may impair physical or mental abilities; patients must be cautioned about performing tasks which require mental alertness (eg, operating machinery or driving).
• Constipation: Use may cause or aggravate constipation; chronic use may result in obstructive bowel disease, particularly in those with underlying intestinal motility disorders. May also be problematic in patients with unstable angina and patients post-myocardial infarction. Consider preventative measures (eg, stool softener, increased fiber) to reduce the potential for constipation.
• Hypotension: May cause severe hypotension (including orthostatic hypotension and syncope); use with caution in patients with hypovolemia, cardiovascular disease (including acute MI), or drugs that may exaggerate hypotensive effects (including phenothiazines or general anesthetics). Monitor for symptoms of hypotension following initiation or dose titration. Avoid use in patients with circulatory shock.
• Phenanthrene hypersensitivity: Use with caution in patients with hypersensitivity reactions to other phenanthrene-derivative opioid agonists (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, levorphanol, oxycodone, oxymorphone).
• Respiratory depression: [US Boxed Warning]: Serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression may occur. Monitor closely for respiratory depression, especially during initiation or dose escalation. Carbon dioxide retention from opioid-induced respiratory depression can exacerbate the sedating effects of opioids.
• Abdominal conditions: May obscure diagnosis or clinical course of patients with acute abdominal conditions.
• Adrenocortical insufficiency: Use with caution in patients with adrenal insufficiency, including Addison disease. Long-term opioid use may cause secondary hypogonadism, which may lead to sexual dysfunction, infertility, mood disorders, and osteoporosis (Brennan 2013).
• Biliary tract impairment: Use with caution in patients with biliary tract dysfunction, including acute pancreatitis; may cause constriction of sphincter of Oddi; may increase amylase/lipase levels.
• CNS depression/coma: Avoid use in patients with impaired consciousness or coma, as these patients are susceptible to intracranial effects of CO2 retention.
• Delirium tremens: Use with caution in patients with delirium tremens.
• Head trauma: Use with extreme caution in patients with head injury, intracranial lesions, or elevated intracranial pressure; exaggerated elevation of ICP may occur.
• Hepatic impairment: Use with caution in patients with severe hepatic impairment.
• Mental health conditions: Use opioids with caution for chronic pain in patients with mental health conditions (eg, depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder) due to increased risk for opioid use disorder and overdose; more frequent monitoring is recommended (Dowell [CDC 2016]).
• Obesity: Use with caution in patients who are morbidly obese.
• Prostatic hyperplasia/urinary stricture: Use with caution in patients with prostatic hyperplasia and/or urinary stricture.
• Psychosis: Use with caution in patients with toxic psychosis.
• Renal impairment: Use with caution in patients with renal failure.
• Respiratory disease: Use with caution and monitor for respiratory depression in patients with significant COPD or cor pulmonale and those having a substantially decreased respiratory reserve, hypoxia, hypercarbia, or preexisting respiratory depression, particularly when initiating therapy and titrating therapy. Critical respiratory depression may occur, even at therapeutic dosages. Consider the use of alternative nonopioid analgesics in these patients.
• Sleep-disordered breathing: Use opioids with caution for chronic pain and titrate dosage cautiously in patients with risk factors for sleep-disordered breathing, including HF and obesity. Avoid opioids in patients with moderate to severe sleep-disordered breathing (Dowell [CDC 2016]).
• Seizure disorders: Use with caution in patients with a history of seizure disorders; may cause or exacerbate seizures.
• Thyroid dysfunction: Use with caution in patients with thyroid dysfunction.
Concurrent drug therapy issues:
• Benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants: [US Boxed Warning]: Concomitant use of opioids with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol, may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Reserve concomitant prescribing of codeine and benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. Limit dosage and durations to the minimum required. Follow patients for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation.
• CYP 3A4 interactions: [US Boxed Warning]: The effects of concomitant use or discontinuation of CYP-450 3A4 inducers, 3A4 inhibitors, or 2D6 inhibitors with codeine are complex. Use of CYP-450 3A4 inducers, 3A4 inhibitors, or 2D6 inhibitors with codeine requires careful consideration of the effects on the parent drug, codeine, and the active metabolite morphine.
• Drug-drug interactions: Potentially significant interactions may exist, requiring dose or frequency adjustment, additional monitoring, and/or selection of alternative therapy. Consult drug interactions database for more detailed information.
• CYP2D6 “ultrarapid metabolizers”: Use caution in patients with two or more copies of the variant CYP2D6*2 allele; may have extensive conversion to morphine and thus increased opioid-mediated effects. Avoid the use of codeine in these patients; consider alternative analgesics such as morphine or a nonopioid agent (Crews 2012). The occurrence of this phenotype is seen in 0.5% to 1% of Chinese and Japanese, 0.5% to 1% of Hispanics, 1% to 10% of Caucasians, 3% of African-Americans, and 16% to 28% of North Africans, Ethiopians, and Arabs.
• Cachectic or debilitated patients: Use with caution in cachectic or debilitated patients; there is a greater potential for critical respiratory depression, even at therapeutic dosages. Consider the use of alternative nonopioid analgesics in these patients.
• Elderly: Use with caution in the elderly; may be more sensitive to adverse effects. Use opioids for chronic pain with caution in this age group; monitor closely due to an increased potential for risks, including certain risks such as falls/fracture, cognitive impairment, and constipation. Clearance may also be reduced in older adults (with or without renal impairment) resulting in a narrow therapeutic window and increasing the risk for respiratory depression or overdose (Dowell [CDC 2016]).
• Neonates: Neonatal withdrawal syndrome: [US Boxed Warning]: Prolonged use during pregnancy can cause neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, which may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period in a pregnant woman, advise the patient of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available. Signs and symptoms include irritability, hyperactivity and abnormal sleep pattern, high-pitched cry, tremor, vomiting, diarrhea, and failure to gain weight. Onset, duration, and severity depend on the drug used, duration of use, maternal dose, and rate of drug elimination by the newborn.
• Pediatric: [US Boxed Warning]: Respiratory depression and death have occurred in children who received codeine following tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy and were found to have evidence of being ultra-rapid metabolizers of codeine due to a CYP2D6 polymorphism; children with obstructive sleep apnea may be at increased risk. Deaths have also occurred in breastfeeding infants after being exposed to high concentrations of morphine because the mothers were ultra-rapid metabolizers. Use is contraindicated in the postoperative pain management of children who have undergone tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy.
Dosage form specific issues:
• Sulfites: Some preparations contain sulfites which may cause allergic reactions.
• Abuse/misuse/diversion: [US Boxed Warning]: Use exposes patients and other users to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death. Assess each patient’s risk prior to prescribing codeine, and monitor all patients regularly for the development of these behaviors or conditions. Use with caution in patients with a history of drug abuse or acute alcoholism; potential for drug dependency exists. Other factors associated with increased risk for misuse include younger age, concomitant depression (major), and psychotropic medication use. Consider offering naloxone prescriptions in patients with factors associated with an increased risk for overdose, such as history of overdose or substance use disorder, higher opioid dosages (≥50 morphine milligram equivalents/day orally), and concomitant benzodiazepine use (Dowell [CDC 2016]).
• Accidental ingestion: [US Boxed Warning]: Accidental ingestion of even one dose of codeine, especially by children, can result in a fatal overdose of codeine.
• Appropriate use: Chronic pain (outside of end-of-life or palliative care, active cancer treatment, sickle cell disease, or medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder) in outpatient setting in adults: Opioids should not be used as first-line therapy for chronic pain management (pain >3-month duration or beyond time of normal tissue healing) due to limited short-term benefits, undetermined long-term benefits, and association with serious risks (eg, overdose, MI, auto accidents, risk of developing opioid use disorder). Preferred management includes nonpharmacologic therapy and nonopioid therapy (eg, NSAIDs, acetaminophen, certain anticonvulsants and antidepressants). If opioid therapy is initiated, it should be combined with nonpharmacologic and nonopioid therapy, as appropriate. Prior to initiation, known risks of opioid therapy should be discussed and realistic treatment goals for pain/function should be established, including consideration for discontinuation if benefits do not outweigh risks. Therapy should be continued only if clinically meaningful improvement in pain/function outweighs risks. Therapy should be initiated at the lowest effective dosage using immediate-release opioids (instead of extended-release/long-acting opioids). Risk associated with use increases with higher opioid dosages. Risks and benefits should be re-evaluated when increasing dosage to ≥50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME)/day orally; dosages ≥90 MME/day orally should be avoided unless carefully justified (Dowell [CDC 2016]).
• Optimal regimen: An opioid-containing analgesic regimen should be tailored to each patient's needs and based upon the type of pain being treated (acute versus chronic), the route of administration, degree of tolerance for opioids (naive versus chronic user), age, weight, and medical condition. The optimal analgesic dose varies widely among patients; doses should be titrated to pain relief/prevention.
• Surgery: Opioids decrease bowel motility; monitor for decreased bowel motility in postop patients receiving opioids. Use with caution in the perioperative setting; individualize treatment when transitioning from parenteral to oral analgesics.
• Withdrawal: Concurrent use of mixed agonist/antagonist (eg, pentazocine, nalbuphine, butorphanol) or partial agonist (eg, buprenorphine) analgesics may precipitate withdrawal symptoms and/or reduced analgesic efficacy in patients following prolonged therapy with mu opioid agonists. Abrupt discontinuation following prolonged use may also lead to withdrawal symptoms. Taper dose gradually when discontinuing.
Pain relief, respiratory and mental status, blood pressure, heart rate; signs/symptoms of addiction, abuse, or misuse; signs/symptoms of hypogonadism or hypoadrenalism (Brennan 2013).
Alternate recommendations: Chronic pain (long-term therapy outside of end-of-life or palliative care, active cancer treatment, sickle cell disease, or medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder): Evaluate benefits/risks of opioid therapy within 1 to 4 weeks of treatment initiation and with dose increases. Re-evaluate benefits/risks every 3 months during therapy or more frequently in patients at increased risk of overdose or opioid use disorder. Urine drug testing is recommended prior to initiation and re-checking should be considered at least yearly (includes controlled prescription medications and illicit drugs of abuse). State prescription drug monitoring program data should be reviewed by clinicians prior to initiation and periodically during therapy (frequency ranging from every prescription to every 3 months) (Dowell [CDC 2016]).
Pregnancy Risk Factor
Adverse events have been observed in animal reproduction studies. Opioid analgesics cross the placenta. Codeine is not recommended for use prior to or during labor and delivery. In humans, birth defects (including some heart defects) have been associated with maternal use of codeine during the first trimester of pregnancy (Broussard 2011).
[US Boxed Warning]: Prolonged use of opioids during pregnancy can cause neonatal withdrawal syndrome, which may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated according to protocols developed by neonatology experts. If opioid use is required for a prolonged period in a pregnant woman, advise the patient of the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and ensure that appropriate treatment will be available. If chronic opioid exposure occurs in pregnancy, adverse events in the newborn (including withdrawal) may occur; monitoring of the neonate is recommended. The minimum effective dose should be used if opioids are needed (Chou 2009). Neonatal abstinence syndrome following opioid exposure may present with autonomic (eg, fever, temperature instability), GI (eg, diarrhea, vomiting, poor feeding/weight gain), or neurologic (eg, high-pitched crying, increased muscle tone, irritability, seizure, tremor) symptoms (Dow 2012; Hudak 2012).
• Discuss specific use of drug and side effects with patient as it relates to treatment. (HCAHPS: During this hospital stay, were you given any medicine that you had not taken before? Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for? How often did hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?)
• Patient may experience sweating a lot. Have patient report immediately to prescriber severe dizziness, passing out, angina, tachycardia, difficulty breathing, slow breathing, shallow breathing, noisy breathing, confusion, severe fatigue, abnormal heartbeat, hallucinations, mood changes, seizures, severe abdominal pain, severe headache, difficult urination, tremors, vision changes, severe nausea, severe vomiting, severe constipation, severe loss of strength and energy, sexual dysfunction (males), amenorrhea, decreased libido, infertility, signs of serotonin syndrome (dizziness, severe headache, agitation, hallucinations, tachycardia, abnormal heartbeat, flushing, tremors, sweating a lot, change in balance, severe nausea, or severe diarrhea), or signs of adrenal gland problems (severe nausea, vomiting, severe dizziness, passing out, muscle weakness, severe fatigue, mood changes, lack of appetite, or weight loss) (HCAHPS).
• Educate patient about signs of a significant reaction (eg, wheezing; chest tightness; fever; itching; bad cough; blue skin color; seizures; or swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat). Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all side effects. Patient should consult prescriber for additional questions.
Intended Use and Disclaimer: Should not be printed and given to patients. This information is intended to serve as a concise initial reference for health care professionals to use when discussing medications with a patient. You must ultimately rely on your own discretion, experience, and judgment in diagnosing, treating, and advising patients.
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- Drug class: antitussives
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