Hydrochlorothiazide Pharmacology

On this episode, I breakdown the pharmacology of hydrochlorothiazide including adverse effects, drug interactions, and other clinical pearls.

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Torsemide Pharmacology

On this episode, I discuss torsemide pharmacology, adverse effects, drug interactions and pharmacokinetics.

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Doxylamine Pharmacology

In the podcast this week, I talk about doxylamine pharmacology. Doxylamine is a first-generation antihistamine; it is commonly an active ingredient in night-time medications like Unisom, Nyquil, and Mucinex. The pharmacology of doxylamine is similar to other first-generation antihistamines, it competitively inhibits the binding of histamine at H1 receptors. Its main uses are as sleep aides, in cough-and-cold medications, but doxylamine has also been given with pyridoxine to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Doxylamine’s adverse reactions are related to its anticholinergic properties, they include dry eyes, dry mouth, increased fall risk, sedation, urinary retention, constipation, and confusion. Contraindications include concurrent use with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, known hypersensitivities, concomitant alcohol use, and if the patient has the following conditions: elevated intraocular pressure, narrow-angle glaucoma, asthma, peptic ulcer disease, urinary bladder neck obstruction, or gastric outlet obstruction. It is also a Beer’s list drug due to its anticholinergic effects. The normal dose in adults is 25 mg. In cases of overdosage, the most common manifestation is exacerbations of its anticholinergic effects. The major complications of an overdose include arrhythmia, respiratory failure, seizures, hyperthermia, rhabdomyolysis, and coma. 

When you know a patient is taking doxylamine, it’s important to be cognizant of their occupation, as well as what other conditions they may have. For example, doxylamine should be used with caution in patients that drive heavy machinery due to its sedating properties. You might be able to tell if a patient’s experiencing an adverse reaction exacerbation if they begin having worsening dementia symptoms or increased urinary retention. Other indications include the use of artificial tears, or saliva, or increased complaints of constipation. To monitor for doxylamine, it’s important to monitor the patient’s tolerability. The onset of doxylamine is relatively quick as well, with a peak concentration within 2-4 hours.

For drug-drug interactions, CYP interactions aren’t as concerning as usual. The main interaction to consider when a patient is taking doxylamine is additive anticholinergic effects. Sedative effects can increase when benzodiazepines, skeletal muscle relaxants, opioids, or antihistamines are concurrently taken. Doxylamine can also counteract the usefulness of dementia or BPH medications due to its anticholinergic properties. There is also a risk of increased anticholinergic burden when taken with skeletal muscle relaxants or tricyclic antidepressants. 

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Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Sacubitril Valsartan Pharmacology

On this episode, I breakdown the sacubitril valsartan pharmacology.

The drug for this week is the combination drug sacubitril/valsartan, also known as Entresto. Entresto has a novel dual mechanism of action to treat HFrEF. Sacubitril, currently, is the only FDA-approved medication that is a neprilysin inhibitor. For background, neprilysin is an enzyme that breaks down natriuretic peptides. The inhibition of neprilysin results in an increase in natriuretic peptides, which causes vasodilation, fluid loss, and a decrease in blood pressure. Valsartan is an angiotensin II receptor blocker; it prevents angiotensin II from binding to AT1 to reduce blood pressure by reducing vasoconstriction, synthesis, and release of aldosterone and ADH, cardiac remodeling, and renal reabsorption of sodium. The unique pharmacology of Entresto makes it advantageous to use in HFrEF and is even now one of the preferred agents.

Common adverse reactions that occur when taking Entresto are related to its dual mechanism pharmacology. The most common adverse reactions of Entresto are hyperkalemia, angioedema, hypotension, and renal impairment. Entresto is contraindicated in pregnancy due to fetotoxicity; it requires a 36 hour washout period when transitioning from an ACE inhibitor due to the increased risk of angioedema. 

Entresto is initially dosed at 24/26 mg twice a day if the patient is on a low dose ACE inhibitor/ARB, or if the patient has not taken anything. If a patient is taking over 10 mg of enalapril equivalents a day or 160 mg of valsartan equivalents a day, then the preferred initial dose is 49/51 mg twice a day. Regardless of initial dosing, the target dose is 97/103 mg twice a day. In cases of severe renal impairment, or moderate hepatic impairment, the initial dosing should start at 24/26 twice a day; titration remains the same. 

The pharmacology of Entresto leaves room for many potential drug-drug interactions. There’s a risk of duplicate therapy with other ACE inhibitors or ARBs. An exacerbation of adverse drug reactions can also occur when taking medications that can lower blood pressure, like Sinemet, or medications that can increase the risk for hyperkalemia, like trimethoprim, and spironolactone, or medications that can increase the risk of renal impairment, like NSAIDs. Entresto has also been shown to increase the risk of lithium toxicity.

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Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Glipizide Pharmacology

Glipizide, or Glucotrol, is a sulfonylurea used for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. Pharmacologically, glipizide acts by stimulating beta-cells in the pancreas to release insulin. Specifically, glipizide will block the opening of ATP-sensitive potassium channels on the plasma membrane of beta-cells on the pancreas. The result of that is depolarization, which then causes stimulation of voltage-sensitive calcium channels, eventually causing the exocytosis of insulin. The increased insulin will then promote the storage of glucose, decreasing the amount of glucose in the blood. 

Due to the pharmacology of glipizide, the concerning adverse drug reactions are hypoglycemia and weight gain. Other adverse drug reactions include diaphoresis, dizziness, syncope, nervousness, anxiety, tremors, and diarrhea. The contraindications include hypersensitivity, Type 1 Diabetes, and DKA. Glipizide is not used as often due to the risk of hypoglycemia and weight gain. Glipizide is usually dosed once daily, but it can be split up if the dose is escalated. There are differences in administration depending on the formulation. For immediate release formulations, glipizide should be taken 30 minutes before meals to ensure that absorption is stable. For extended formulations, it can be given with breakfast or any other meal. 

Of all the sulfonylureas, glipizide is preferred in CKD. Other sulfonylureas, like glyburide, are not preferred due to a decrease in elimination that can result in dose accumulation. In geriatric populations, dosing is less aggressive to lessen the risk of any adverse drug reactions and more specifically hypoglycemia. There’s a risk of cross-reactivity with sulfonamide allergies, but the risk will vary and is low risk. If SJS occurs due to a sulfonamide-containing drug, glipizide likely wouldn’t be recommended.

The drug-drug interactions of glipizide include medications that can increase the risk of hypoglycemia, for example, medications like quinolone antibiotics and B-blockers can mask the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Other interactions include the type where it can counteract the effect of glipizide, for example, medications that can increase blood glucose levels like corticosteroids, antipsychotics such as olanzapine and clozapine, stimulants, and transplant medications like cyclosporine and tacrolimus. There are also CYP interactions that can impact glipizide since it’s metabolized by CYP2C9. More monitoring is warranted when medications that can inhibit CYP2C9, like fluconazole, and medications that can induce CYP2C9, like rifampin, are also given. In cases of overdose, hypoglycemia is most likely to occur. Correction of decreased glucose levels is necessary.

Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Cetirizine Pharmacology

On this episode of the Real Life Pharmacology Podcast, I discuss cetirizine pharmacology.

Cetirizine, commonly known as Zyrtec, is a 2nd generation antihistamine. Compared to 1st generation antihistamines, like diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine, 2nd generation antihistamines have fewer anticholinergic effects. Pharmacologically, cetirizine works by selectively blocking histamine from binding to the H1 receptor. The uses for cetirizine are allergic rhinitis, itching, and sometimes acute allergic reactions. Commonly, cetirizine is dosed at 10 mg daily, and can even be escalated to 10 mg twice daily in rare situations. In adults 77 years old and older, the manufacturer recommended dose tops out at 5 mg daily. There are also liquid and chewable formulations for children. 

The adverse drug reactions cetirizine are mostly dose-dependent and related to its pharmacology. Out of all of the 2nd generation antihistamines, like fexofenadine and loratadine, cetirizine is the most sedating. Other adverse drug reactions related to its anticholinergic effects are urinary retention, constipation, confusion, fatigue, and dizziness. Lab monitoring is not necessary when taking cetirizine. It is important to monitor the adverse drug reactions when taking cetirizine, as well as improvement in the signs and symptoms of what it’s used for. 

Cetirizine does not undergo metabolism through liver CYP enzymes, so drug-drug interactions involving those enzymes are uncommon. The interactions that are concerning are additive effects of cetirizine’s adverse drug reactions. Drowsiness can be compounded when cetirizine is taken with opioids, sleep medications, alcohol, or other older anticholinergics with sedative effects. There is also a risk of an increased anticholinergic burden when taking medications like Cogentin, oxybutynin, TCAs, and inhaled anticholinergics. 

The manifestation of overdoses will vary depending on age. In adults, the most common observation made was sedation and somnolence. In children, restlessness and irritability were observed initially, then drowsiness. Cetirizine is not removed by dialysis. When treating overdoses, the symptoms that manifest should be treated.  

Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Folic Acid Pharmacology

folic acid pharmacology

Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin; compared to fat-soluble vitamins, accumulation is not as much of an issue. It is responsible for the formation of coenzymes, DNA synthesis, erythropoiesis, and certain metabolic processes. Due to the mechanism of folic acid, if there is a deficiency present, anemia can manifest. Although the recommended dietary intake is 0.2 mg, supplementation may be necessary. Some situations where supplementation may be desired are prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy, patients suffering from alcohol abuse disorder, bariatric surgery patients, and certain types of GI disorders where malabsorption may be present. If a patient is taking certain medications folic acid supplementation may be necessary as well. Notable drugs where a patient may require folic acid include methotrexate and phenytoin. 

The dosages used most often when supplementing folic acid are in the 1-5 mg range, and most of the time it will be 1 mg. Folic acid has a relatively safe adverse drug reaction profile. Some possible adverse drug reactions are flushing, malaise, erythema, skin rash, and hypersensitivity reactions. Although uncommon, the chance for an adverse drug reaction occurring increases as the dose increases. For monitoring folic acid, the normal levels can vary between 2-20 ng/mL, but they can vary based upon the lab. A type of anemia that can manifest with a folic acid deficiency is megaloblastic anemia. When assessing megaloblastic anemia, vitamin B12 levels should also be assessed. 

Folic acid levels can be impacted by phenytoin, methotrexate, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, sulfasalazine, triamterene, and alcohol. When a patient is only taking trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole for acute treatment of a UTI, folic acid levels aren’t as concerning. Whenever it changes from acute treatment to prophylaxis, folic acid levels should be monitored more closely. Theoretically, folic acid can lower concentrations of phenytoin, and phenobarbital, so closer monitoring may be warranted.  

Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Insulin Glargine Pharmacology

On this episode, I discuss insulin glargine pharmacology. Insulin glargine is a long-acting insulin that has the common brand names Lantus, Basaglar, and Toujeo. Due to the pharmacology of insulin glargine, it provides a baseline coverage of insulin. It cannot manage acute elevations in blood glucose like target-specific meals. Instead, insulin glargine is used to decrease blood sugar throughout the day. 

It is normally dosed once a day, and sometimes a patient will have another type of insulin that’s rapid-acting, like Humalog. The daily insulin dose will vary, but it’s frequently a 50/50 split between long-acting, and rapid-acting. Dosing of insulin glargine in Type 2 diabetes is usually started at 10 units, but that can vary based on the patient or pertinent clinical data. Whenever doses need to be changed, it’s typically done in the range of 3-7 day intervals. Generally, when dose increases are desired, and the risk for hypoglycemia is low, a 10-20% increase is mostly what’s done. When converting between different types of insulin, the majority are 80% to 1:1 equivalent. Clinical monitoring is vital with any conversion.

Insulin glargine is best suited in long-acting situations due to its formulation. Its solubility varies at different levels of acidity. The pH of the injected solution is 4, where insulin glargine is completely soluble. When the solution is at physiological pH, around 7.4, micro-precipitations can form causing small amounts of insulin glargine to be released over 24 hours. The onset of action of insulin glargine is roughly 3-4 hours, and hypoglycemia is not an immediate concern because of this. If a medication error occurs with insulin glargine, it likely wouldn’t be noticed immediately due to its kinetics. For rapid-acting insulin like Humalog, it would be noticed more quickly.

Monitoring for insulin glargine is individualized, but it’s generally done through measuring A1c levels. Serum potassium levels can also be monitored, but with longer-acting insulins, it is less of a concern. The most common adverse reactions of insulin glargine are hypoglycemia, weight gain, peripheral edema, and immunological reactions. Drug-drug interactions aren’t a large concern with insulins, due to the amount of monitoring of patients on them. There are risks of potentiation of hypoglycemia or masking of the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. With diabetic patients, the compounded risk of hypoglycemia might be greater if they’re taking other medications like metformin, GLP-1 agonists, sulfonylureas, SGLT2 inhibitors, etc. Some other drugs that can increase the risk of hypoglycemia are quinolone antibiotics, B-blockers, or thiazide diuretics. The efficacy of insulin glargine can also be decreased by corticosteroids, stimulants, antipsychotics, or transplant medications.

In cases of overdose, because of the pharmacology of insulin glargine, hypoglycemia is common. The milder cases of hypoglycemia can be treated with oral carbohydrates, and simply adjusting the dose, meal patterns, or exercise may suffice. In severe cases of hypoglycemia, coma, seizure, or neurologic impairment may occur. Symptoms of severe hypoglycemia can be treated with glucagon or glucose and these patients typically need to be hospitalized. Once an overdosed patient recovers from hypoglycemia, clinical observation, and carbohydrate intake may be necessary to avoid recurrence.

Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Resources

Paragraph 1: taken from podcast

Paragraph 2: taken from podcast

Paragraph 3: pH solubility (https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB00047#mechanism-of-action), medication error taken from podcast

Paragraph 4: taken from podcast, ADRs taken from Lexicomp

Paragraph 5: overdose information (“FDA Approved Drug Products: Lantus (Insulin glargine) for subcutaneous injection”)

Primidone Pharmacology

On this episode, I discuss primidone pharmacology, adverse effects, and drug interactions.

Primidone, or Mysoline, is an anticonvulsant most commonly used for essential tremors. The primary pharmacological mechanism of action of primidone is similar to other anticonvulsants, like phenobarbital. It causes a reduction in the activity of neurons. Both primidone and its metabolites are potent anticonvulsants. Primidone alters the transmembrane Na/Cl transport channel to reduce the frequency of nerve firing. Phenobarbital, one of primidone’s active metabolites, interacts with GABA-A receptors and chloride channels to reduce nerve excitability.   

Typically B-blockers are used first for essential tremors, then primidone is the next option if B-blockers are ineffective. The dose of primidone can change depending on the use. At lower doses, around 250-700 mg/day (often lower doses than 250 mg will be used), it can indicate that it is being used for essential tremor. When it’s administered at higher doses, up to around 750-1500 mg/day, it can indicate that it is being used for seizures. When used for seizures, it’s important to taper more slowly to not cause seizures with lower minimum effective concentrations. When first dispensing phenytoin, it’s also important to look through a patient’s medication to check that it’s truly essential tremors, and not drug-induced. 

Primidone has common adverse drug reactions of CNS depression, sedation, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, GI issues, ataxia; the adverse drug reactions are similar to alcohol toxicity. Special consideration should be taken in patients with a history of depression; primidone can cause or exacerbate suicidal ideation. It’s important to monitor the blood concentrations of phenobarbital when primidone is taken at higher doses, at lower doses, it’s not as important. Vitamin deficiencies should also be monitored. Primidone can cause a vitamin D deficiency, along with vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies. 

Drug-drug interactions of primidone are those that can cause additive effects of CNS depression. For example, other anti-seizure medications, opioids, and first-generation antihistamines. Primidone also has enzymatic interactions. It is metabolized into its active metabolites by CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP2E1. It should be monitored more closely when taken with drugs that can induce, or inhibit, the activity of those enzymes. Primidone, and phenobarbital, also induces CYP3A4 as well as CYP1A2. Certain drugs like apixaban, rivaroxaban, aripiprazole, prednisone, quetiapine, amlodipine, alprazolam, and olanzapine should be monitored more closely. 

The signs of primidone overdose are extensions of its adverse drug reactions. Common signs of an overdose are CNS depression, respiratory depression, lowered reflexes, and hypotension. In cases of severe primidone overdose, removal of the unabsorbed drug with hemoperfusion has been shown to be effective and show improvement in a patient’s clinical condition. In non-severe cases, symptomatic and supportive treatment may be necessary.

Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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References

Paragraph 1: taken from episode, information on MOA taken from drugbank (https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB00794#mechanism-of-action)

Paragraph 2: taken from episode

Paragraph 3: taken from episode

Paragraph 4: taken from episode, information on metabolism taken from drugbank (https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB00794#metabolism)

Paragraph 5: taken from drugbank (https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB00794#toxicity)

Melatonin Pharmacology

I cover melatonin pharmacology on this episode of the Real Life Pharmacology Podcast.

Melatonin, commonly taken by patients for insomnia, is an endogenous hormone produced by the pineal gland. It is an over-the-counter supplement available in dosage forms such as liquid drops, gummies, and tablets. The pharmacology of melatonin is primarily through the activation of melatonin receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus; it is also a derivative of L-tryptophan. The production and secretion of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and is inhibited by light. Melatonin concentrations are also shown to vary with age. Its production primarily begins between months 3-4 post-birth, and it peaks between years 1-3. The production and secretion decrease with age and can play a role in insomnia in adults. The doses of melatonin can vary but is commonly found in 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg. Although it is usually taken in higher doses, doses between 0.1-0.5 mg may be adequate. 

Certain things need to be taken into consideration when a patient is taking melatonin. Some of the things that should be taken into consideration are if it works as it’s expected to or if the patient is already on stimulating medications that can cause insomnia. If the patient is taking other medications like zolpidem, trazodone, or mirtazapine, melatonin may not be needed. Other things that should be taken into consideration are if the patient tolerates melatonin well and if a lower dose of melatonin can be used. Melatonin is commonly well-tolerated, but it can occasionally cause CNS issues at higher doses such as oversedation, cognitive impairment. It can even cause hyperprolactinemia that can cause sexual dysfunction, fertility risk, lactation, and is associated with lower bone mineral density. 

Common adverse drug reactions associated with the pharmacology of melatonin are headache, CNS depression, irritability, and daytime sedation. With long-term use, melatonin can cause suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Melatonin is primarily metabolized by CYP1A2, CYP2C9, and CYP2C19. The concentration and efficacy of melatonin can potentially be impacted by medications that induce or inhibit the CYP enzyme system, such as propranolol, calcium-channel blockers, and others. Interactions of melatonin that are not CYP mediated are additive effects when taken with other sedatives, caffeine, and ethanol that can reduce the efficacy of melatonin, or other medications that can increase the risk of adverse drug reactions. 

Melatonin is regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement, and not as a medication. Toxicology studies are limited.

Show notes provided by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student.

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Resources

  1. Information is taken directly from the podcast episode
  2. Light/dark melatonin levels, concentrations with age paragraph 1: 10.1016/s0531-5565(98)00054-0 , podcast
  3. ADRs paragraph 2: Lexicomp, podcast
  4. CYP interactions paragraph 3: Lexicomp
  5. Toxicity paragraph 4: Lexicomp