Health Guide
Drug Guide

Phenothiazine (Oral route, parenteral route, rectal route)

Brand Names:

Dosage Forms:

Uses of This Medicine:

Phenothiazines are used to treat serious mental and emotional disorders, including schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Some are used also to control agitation in certain patients, severe nausea and vomiting, severe hiccups, and moderate to severe pain in some hospitalized patients. Chlorpromazine is used also in the treatment of certain types of porphyria, and with other medicines in the treatment of tetanus. Phenothiazines may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Phenothiazines may cause unwanted, unattractive, and uncontrolled face or body movements that may not go away when you stop taking the medicine. They may also cause other serious unwanted effects. You and your doctor should talk about the good this medicine will do as well as the risks of using it. Also, your doctor should look for early signs of these effects at regular visits. Your doctor may be able to stop or decrease some unwanted effects, if they do occur, by changing your dose or by making other changes in your treatment.

These medicines are available only with your doctor's prescription.

Levoprome(R) (methotrimeprazine) is no longer available in the United States. At the end of May 1998, Immunex Corporation stopped marketing it.

Once a medicine has been approved for marketing for a certain use, experience may show that it also is useful for other medical problems. Although these uses are not included in product labeling, phenothiazines are used in certain patients with the following medical conditions:

Before Using This Medicine:

Allergies

Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to medicines in this group or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.

Children

Certain side effects, such as muscle spasms of the face, neck, and back, tic-like or twitching movements, inability to move the eyes, twisting of the body, or weakness of the arms and legs, are more likely to occur in children, especially those with severe illness or dehydration. Children are usually more sensitive than adults to the effects of phenothiazines.

Older adults

Constipation, trouble urinating, dryness of mouth, confusion, problems with memory, dizziness or fainting, drowsiness, trembling of the hands and fingers, and problems with muscle movement, such as decreased or unusual movements, are especially likely to occur in elderly patients, who are usually more sensitive than younger adults to the effects of phenothiazines.

Pregnancy

Although studies have not been done in pregnant women, some side effects, such as jaundice and movement disorders, have occurred in a few newborns whose mothers received phenothiazines during pregnancy. Studies in animals have shown that, when given to the mother during pregnancy, these medicines can decrease the number of successful pregnancies and cause problems with bone development in the offspring. Before taking this medicine, make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or if you may become pregnant.

Breast-feeding

Phenothiazines pass into breast milk and may cause drowsiness or unusual muscle movements in the nursing baby. It may be necessary for you to take a different medicine or to stop breast-feeding during treatment. Be sure you have discussed the risks and benefits of the medicine with your doctor.

Other medicines

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking any of these medicines, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.

Using medicines in this class with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with a medication in this class or change some of the other medicines you take.

Using medicines in this class with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

Other interactions

Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Using medicines in this class with any of the following is usually not recommended, but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use your medicine, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Other medical problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of medicines in this class. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

Proper Use of This Medicine:

For patients taking this medicine by mouth:

For patients using the suppository form of this medicine:

This medicine must be taken for several weeks before its full effect is reached when it is used to treat mental and emotional conditions.

Dosing

The dose medicines in this class will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of these medicines. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

Missed dose

Call your doctor or pharmacist for instructions.

If you miss a dose of this medicine and your dosing schedule is:

If you have any questions about this, check with your doctor.

Storage

Keep out of the reach of children.

Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.

Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.

Precautions While Using This Medicine:

Your doctor should check your progress at regular visits, especially during the first few months of treatment with this medicine. This will allow your dosage to be changed if necessary to meet your needs.

Do not stop taking this medicine without first checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to reduce gradually the amount you are taking before stopping completely. This is to prevent side effects and to keep your condition from becoming worse.

Do not take this medicine within 2 hours of taking antacids or medicine for diarrhea. Taking these products too close together may make this medicine less effective.

This medicine will add to the effects of alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants (medicines that slow down the nervous system, possibly causing drowsiness). Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, other allergies, or colds; sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine; prescription pain medicine or narcotics; barbiturates; medicine for seizures; muscle relaxants; or anesthetics, including some dental anesthetics. Check with your doctor before taking any of the above while you are using this medicine.

Before using any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for colds or allergies, check with your doctor. These medicines may increase the chance of developing heatstroke or other unwanted effects, such as dizziness, dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation, while you are taking a phenothiazine.

Before you have any medical tests, tell the medical doctor in charge that you are taking this medicine. The results of some tests (such as electrocardiogram [ECG or EKG] readings, the gonadorelin test, the metyrapone test, tests for phenylketonuria, and urine bilirubin tests) may be affected by this medicine.

Before having any kind of surgery, dental treatment, or emergency treatment, tell the medical doctor or dentist in charge that you are using this medicine. Taking phenothiazines together with medicines that are used during surgery, dental treatments, or emergency treatments may increase CNS depression or cause low blood pressure.

This medicine may cause some people to become drowsy or less alert than they are normally. Even if this medicine is taken only at bedtime, it may cause some people to feel drowsy or less alert on arising. Make sure you know how you react to this medicine before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert.

Phenothiazines may cause blurred vision, difficulty in reading, or other changes in vision, especially during the first few weeks of treatment. Do not drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not able to see well. If the problem continues or gets worse, check with your doctor.

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting may occur, especially when you get up from a lying or sitting position. Getting up slowly may help. If the problem continues or gets worse, check with your doctor.

This medicine may make you sweat less, causing your body temperature to increase. Use extra care not to become overheated during exercise or hot weather while you are taking this medicine, since overheating may result in heatstroke. Also, hot baths or saunas may make you feel dizzy or faint while you are taking this medicine.

This medicine also may make you more sensitive to cold temperatures. Dress warmly during cold weather. Be careful during prolonged exposure to cold, such as in winter sports or swimming in cold water.

Phenothiazines may cause dryness of the mouth. For temporary relief, use sugarless candy or gum, melt bits of ice in your mouth, or use a saliva substitute. However, if your mouth continues to feel dry for more than 2 weeks, check with your medical doctor or dentist. Continuing dryness of the mouth may increase the chance of dental disease, including tooth decay, gum disease, and fungus infections.

Phenothiazines may cause your skin to be more sensitive to sunlight than it is normally. Exposure to sunlight, even for brief periods of time, may cause a skin rash, itching, redness or other discoloration of the skin, or a severe sunburn. When you begin taking this medicine:

Phenothiazines may cause your eyes to be more sensitive to sunlight than they are normally. Exposure to sunlight over a period of time (several months to years) may cause blurred vision, change in color vision, or difficulty in seeing at night. When you go out during the daylight hours, even on cloudy days, wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) light. Ordinary sunglasses may not protect your eyes. If you have any questions about the kind of sunglasses to wear, check with your medical doctor or eye doctor.

If you are taking a liquid form of this medicine, avoid getting it on your skin or clothing because it may cause a skin rash or other irritation.

If you are receiving this medicine by injection:

Side Effects of This Medicine:

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Phenothiazines can sometimes cause serious unwanted effects. Tardive dyskinesia or tardive dystonia (muscle movement disorders) may occur and may not go away after you stop using the medicine. Signs of tardive dyskinesia or tardive dystonia include worm-like movements of the tongue, or other uncontrolled movements of the mouth, tongue, cheeks, jaw, body, arms, or legs. Another possible serious unwanted effect is the neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS). Signs and symptoms of NMS include severe muscle stiffness, fever, fast heartbeat, difficult breathing, increased sweating, and loss of bladder control. You and your doctor should discuss the good this medicine will do as well as the risks of taking it.

Stop taking this medicine and get emergency help immediately if any of the following effects occur:

Rare
(Symptoms of neuroleptic malignant syndrome)
Confusion (severe) or coma
difficult or fast breathing
drooling
fast heartbeat
high or low (irregular) blood pressure
increased sweating
loss of bladder control
muscle stiffness (severe)
trembling or shaking
trouble in speaking or swallowing

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

More common
Inability to move eyes
increased blinking or spasms of eyelid
lip smacking or puckering
muscle spasms of face, neck, body, arms, or legs causing unusual postures or unusual expressions on face
puffing of cheeks
rapid or worm-like movements of tongue
sticking out of tongue
tic-like or twitching movements
trouble in breathing, speaking, or swallowing
uncontrolled chewing movements
uncontrolled movements of arms or legs
uncontrolled twisting movements of neck, trunk, arms, or leg
Rare
Irregular or slow heart rate
recurrent fainting

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

More common
Blurred vision, change in color vision, or difficulty in seeing at night
fainting
loss of balance control
mask-like face
restlessness or need to keep moving
shuffling walk
stiffness of arms or legs
trembling and shaking of hands and fingers
Less common
Difficulty in urinating
skin rash
sunburn (severe)
Rare
Abdominal or stomach pains
aching muscles and joints
agitation, bizarre dreams, excitement, or trouble in sleeping
bleeding or bruising (unusual
chest pain
clumsiness
confusion (mild)
constipation (severe)
convulsions (seizures)
dark urine
fever and chills
hair loss
headaches
hot, dry skin or lack of sweating
itchy skin (severe)
muscle weakness
nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
pain in joints
prolonged, painful, inappropriate erection of the penis
redness of hands
shivering
skin discoloration (tan or blue-gray)
sore throat and fever
sores in mouth
unusual bleeding or bruising
unusual tiredness or weakness
yellow eyes or skin

Phenothiazines may cause your urine to be dark. In most cases, this is not a sign of a serious problem. However, if your urine does become dark, discuss it with your doctor.

Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common
Constipation (mild)
decreased sweating
dizziness
drowsiness
dryness of mouth
nasal congestion
Less common
Changes in menstrual period
decreased sexual ability
increased sensitivity of eyes to light
rough or “fuzzy” tongue
secretion of milk (unusual)
swelling or pain in breasts
watering of mouth
weight gain (unusual)

After you stop using this medicine, your body may need time to adjust. The length of time this takes depends on the amount of medicine you were using and how long you used it. During this time, check with your doctor if you notice dizziness, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, trembling of the fingers and hands, or any of the following signs of tardive dyskinesia or tardive dystonia:

Inability to move eyes
lip smacking or puckering
muscle spasms of face, neck, body, arms, or legs, causing unusual body positions or unusual expressions on face
puffing of cheeks
rapid or worm-like movements of tongue
sticking out of tongue
tic-like or twitching movements
trouble in breathing, speaking, or swallowing
uncontrolled chewing movements
uncontrolled twisting or other movements of neck, trunk, arms, or legs

Although not all of the side effects listed above have been reported for all of the phenothiazines, they have been reported for at least one of them. However, since all of the phenothiazines are very similar, any of the above side effects may occur with any of these medicines.

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


Last Updated: 10/12/2016

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