Zaleplon Pharmacology

On this episode, I discuss the pharmacology of zaleplon including side effects, drug interactions, and important clinical pearls.

Zaleplon is a non-benzodiazepine sleep aide commonly known as Sonata. It is commonly used for sedation and the management of insomnia. Zaleplon is a controlled medication, with a high risk for dependence, and because of that, it is best used to treat short-term insomnia. The pharmacology of zaleplon is similar to other sleep aids like Ambien, and Lunesta; they all have an impact on GABA. Specifically, zaleplon regulates the GABABZ receptor. The GABABZ receptor has been shown to be responsible for the pharmacological properties of benzodiazepines which produce sedative, anxiolytic, relaxant, and anticonvulsive effects. For pharmacokinetics, zaleplon has a general onset of action around 30-60 minutes, because of that it is best dosed closer to bedtime. 

For sedatives, and other drugs similar to zaleplon, it is generally better to start at lower doses in geriatrics and smaller patients. The commonly accepted dosing is between 5-20 mg, but it is best to use non-pharmacological therapies, instead of pharmacological whenever possible. The most common side effect that may be experienced with zaleplon is next-day sedation, also known as hangover sedation. Loss of mental clarity, dizziness, and confusion may also be present. Serious side effects of taking zaleplon are abnormal sleep behaviors, which it carries a US boxed warning for, and risk of dependence. Zaleplon is also on Beer’s list because of the increased risk of falls, delirium, and increased complications while driving due to sedation and lethargy. 

When a sedative is first prescribed, it’s important to first look at the other medications a patient may be taking to see if that’s what may be causing insomnia. For example, a diuretic administered at night can cause excessive urination that can lead to insomnia. The addition of stimulants too late in the day can also cause that, and similarly, lifestyle changes like increased intake of caffeine can increase the risk for insomnia as well. 

Most of the drug-drug interactions that zaleplon has are due to additive depressive effects. Examples include alcohol, opioids, older antihistamines, trazodone, or any medication that can cause sedation. There is also a smaller risk for CYP3A4 interaction. Concurrent administration of an inducer, like St. John’s Wort, or carbamazepine, can lower the concentrations of zaleplon. Likewise, inhibitors may increase concentrations.

In cases of overdose, the signs and symptoms that will most likely precipitate are exaggerations of zaleplon’s adverse effects. The manifestations of CNS depression can range from drowsiness to coma. More mild cases might have drowsiness, confusion, and lethargy; while more serious cases may have ataxia, hypotonia, hypotension, respiratory depression, coma, and death. To treat a zaleplon overdose, symptomatic and supportive measures are necessary along with gastric lavage. Animal studies suggest that flumazenil is an antidote as an antagonist to zaleplon, but there is no human data. With proper treatment, recoveries have been made with overdoses greater than 200 mg. In instances where the outcome was fatal, it was most often associated with the use of additional CNS depressants.

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

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Resources

Paragraph 1: taken from podcast, also taken from https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB00962#pharmacodynamics

Paragraph 2: taken from podcast

Paragraph 3: taken from podcast

Paragraph 4: taken from podcast

Paragraph 5: taken from FDA label

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. 

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

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

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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.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

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Perils of Polypharmacy (Great Resource for Those Who Work in Geriatrics)

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

Hydroxyzine Pharmacology

Background: – Hydroxyzine Pharmacology Hydroxyzine, common brands Atarax, and Vistaril, is a first-generation antihistamine. It is a part of the piperazine drug class[1], sharing structural similarities to other antihistamines like Cetirizine, but also drugs of other classes like ranolazine, buspirone, clozapine. Being an H1 blocker, hydroxyzine is commonly used for itching, anxiety, analgesia, urticaria, and insomnia. The main adverse drug reactions associated with hydroxyzine are the anticholinergic effects common with most antihistamines, dry mouth, headache, urinary retention, QTC prolongation, drowsiness[2].

Interactions: Due to hydroxyzine’s pharmacology and mechanism of action, it can exacerbate or worsen gastroparesis by decreasing smooth muscle contraction in the GI tract, and has similar effects on benign prostatic hyperplasia by worsening urinary retention. Hydroxyzine is metabolized into its active drug, cetirizine, by CYP3A4 and CYP3A5[3]. As such, hydroxyzine’s efficacy can be increased with concomitant use of rifampin, carbamazepine, St. John’s Wort; and its efficacy can be decreased with concomitant use of certain azole antifungals, verapamil or diltiazem, or grapefruit juice. The anticholinergic effects can also be compounded when taken with other anticholinergic drugs and can decrease the efficacy of certain dementia medications, like clonidine. Although uncommon, the risk of QTC prolongation, and Torsades de Pointes, can be increased when taken with potassium channel blocking agents like amiodarone or sotalol, or other agents like certain antibiotics and antipsychotics[4][5].

PK/PD & toxicity: Hydroxyzine has an onset of action between 15-60 minutes and a duration of action between 4-6 hours[3]. The half-life of hydroxyzine varies with age. On average, it is 7.1 hours in children, 20 hours in adults[6], and 29 hours in the elderly, and should be dosed appropriately[7]. Its volume of distribution is 16±3 L/kg with high concentrations found in the skin than in plasma[3]. Its clearance is 31.1±11.1 mL/min/kg in children and 9.8±3.3 mL/min/kg in adults. The active drug of hydroxyzine is excreted around 70% unchanged in the urine[6]. Overdoses can be characterized by sedation, but can also cause nausea, vomiting, and seizures. General supportive care of the symptoms is needed for treatment. Vomiting should be induced if it has not occurred. Immediate gastric lavage is also recommended[8].

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

Show notes written by Chong Yol G Kim, PharmD Student

Support The Podcast and Check Out These Amazing Resources!

NAPLEX Study Materials

BCPS Study Materials

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Nursing Pharmacology (Amazon Highly Rated)

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Perils of Polypharmacy (Great Resource for Those Who Work in Geriatrics)

References

[1] Fifer EK. Drugs Used to Treat Ocular and Nasal Congestion Disorders. In: Roche VF, Zito SW, Lemke TL, Williams DA. Eds. Foye’s Principles of Medicinal Chemistry 8e. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Accessed May 15, 2021.

[2] Katzung BG. Histamine, Serotonin, & the Ergot Alkaloids. In: Katzung BG, Vanderah TW. eds. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology, 15e. McGraw-Hill; Accessed May 15, 2021.

[3] Altamura AC, Moliterno D, Paletta S, Maffini M, Mauri MC, Bareggi S: Understanding the pharmacokinetics of anxiolytic drugs. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2013 Apr;9(4):423-40. doi: 10.1517/17425255.2013.759209. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

[4] Schlit AF, Delaunois A, Colomar A, Claudio B, Cariolato L, Boev R, Valentin JP, Peters C, Sloan VS, Bentz JWG: Risk of QT prolongation and torsade de pointes associated with exposure to hydroxyzine: re-evaluation of an established drug. Pharmacol Res Perspect. 2017 Apr 21;5(3):e00309. doi: 10.1002/prp2.309. eCollection 2017 Jun.

[5] Nachimuthu S, Assar MD, Schussler JM. Drug-induced QT interval prolongation: mechanisms and clinical management. Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2012;3(5):241-253. doi:10.1177/2042098612454283

[6] Paton DM, Webster DR: Clinical pharmacokinetics of H1-receptor antagonists (the antihistamines). Clin Pharmacokinet. 1985 Nov-Dec;10(6):477-97.

[7] Simons KJ, Watson WT, Chen XY, Simons FE: Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies of the H1-receptor antagonist hydroxyzine in the elderly. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1989 Jan;45(1):9-14. doi: 10.1038/clpt.1989.2.

[8] FDA Approved Drug Products: Vistaril (hydroxyzine pamoate)

Aripiprazole Pharmacology

aripiprazole pharmacology

Aripiprazole is metabolized by CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. Because of this, drug interactions can happen. I discuss specific examples in this episode.

Partial dopamine agonist activity and serotonergic activity make up a significant amount of aripiprazole’s pharmacology.

Aripiprazole is classified as an antipsychotic and can be used in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression augmentation.

Aripiprazole can cause significant akathesia. I discuss this adverse effect on this episode.

I discuss important drug interactions on the podcast, be sure to check out my latest project which is a 200+ page book on managing drug interactions in primary care.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

Escitalopram Pharmacology

escitalopram pharmacology

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

Escitalopram is an SSRI and can be used to manage depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and other psychiatric disorders.

If you consider fluoxetine the most activation SSRI and paroxetine the most sedating, escitalopram probably falls somewhere in the middle.

Sexual dysfunction is a potential adverse effect with escitalopram. I discuss it further on this episode.

I discuss important drug interactions on the podcast, be sure to check out my latest project which is a 200+ page book on managing drug interactions in primary care.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

Ziprasidone Pharmacology

ziprasidone pharmacology

On this episode of the Real Life Pharmacology Podcast, I cover ziprasidone pharmacology.

Ziprasidone has dopamine blocking activity and is classified as a second generation antipsychotic.

Ziprasidone tends to have lower metabolic syndrome risks compared to other antipsychotics like clozapine and olanzapine.

QTc prolongation is a significant risk with ziprasidone and be aware of drug interactions and electrolyte imbalances that may increase this risk.

I discuss important drug interactions on the podcast, be sure to check out my latest project which is a 200+ page book on managing drug interactions in primary care.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

Paroxetine Pharmacology

Paroxetine (Paxil) is an SSRI that can be used in the management of depression. I discuss more on paroxetine pharmacology in this episode.

Because paroxetine has some modest anticholinergic effects, it does show up on the Beers list as a potentially inappropriate medication.

By inhibiting CYP2D6, paroxetine can have numerous drug interactions. Drugs like atomoxetine, aripiprazole, and metoclopramide can all have their concentrations increased.

Tamoxifen is activated by CYP2D6 and paroxetine can ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the medication.

I discuss important drug interactions on the podcast, be sure to check out my latest project which is a 200+ page book on managing drug interactions in primary care.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

Olanzapine Pharmacology

Olanzapine is a 2nd generation antipsychotic that blocks dopamine-2 receptors.

Olanzapine Relprevv (long acting injectable) needs to be closely monitored after the injection is given due to risks of sedation and delirium.

Sedation is a common occurance with the use of olanzapine. It is one of the more sedating second generation antipsychotics.

Weight gain, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia are all potential adverse effects with olanzapine.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!

I discuss important drug interactions on the podcast, be sure to check out my latest project which is a 200+ page book on managing drug interactions in primary care.

Sertraline Pharmacology

Sertraline is an SSRI. It has the highest potential to cause diarrhea of any SSRI.

Sertraline is often called “Squirtraline” because of its potential to cause diarrhea.

Sertraline has a much shorter half-life than fluoxetine. I discuss why that may be important in this podcast episode.

I discuss the role of serotonin in platelet aggregation and how sertraline may affect this.

I discuss important drug interactions on the podcast, be sure to check out my latest project which is a 200+ page book on managing drug interactions in primary care.

Be sure to check out our free Top 200 study guide – a 31 page PDF that is yours for FREE!