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Side Effects


The following serious adverse reactions are discussed elsewhere in the labeling:

In the randomized study, the most common adverse reactions with EMBEDA therapy were constipation, nausea, and somnolence. The most common adverse reactions leading to study discontinuation were nausea, constipation (may be severe), vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, pruritus, and somnolence.

Clinical Trial Experience

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared with rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.

Short-Term Randomized Study

This study utilized an enriched enrollment with a randomized withdrawal design in which subjects were titrated to effect on open-label EMBEDA for up to 45 days. Once their pain was controlled, 344 of 547 subjects were randomized to either an active treatment with EMBEDA or were tapered off EMBEDA using a double-dummy design and placed on placebo. The maintenance Period was 12 weeks. Adverse reactions, reported in ≥ 2% of subjects in either the titration or maintenance phase of the 12-week study are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Adverse Reactions Reported in ≥ 2% of Subjects in the Randomized Study

Adverse Reaction Titration Maintenance
n (%)1=
n (%)
n (%)
Constipation 165 (30%) 12 (7%) 7 (4%)
Nausea 106 (19%) 19 (11%) 11 (6%)
Somnolence 76 (14%) 2 (1%) 5 (3%)
Vomiting 46 (8%) 7 (4%) 2 (1%)
Dizziness 42 (8%) 2 (1%) 2 (1%)
Pruritus 34 (6%) 0 1 (1%)
Dry mouth 31 (6%) 3 (2%) 2 (1%)
Headache 22 (4%) 4 (2%) 2 (1%)
Fatigue 16(3%) 1 (1%) 2 (1%)
Insomnia 7(1%) 5(3%) 4(2%)
Diarrhea 6 (1%) 12(7%) 12(7%)
Abdominal pain upper 6 (1%) 4(2%) 3(2%)
Flushing 0 4(2%) 1 (1%)

Long-Term Open-Label Safety Study

In the long-term open-label safety study, 465 patients with chronic non-malignant pain were enrolled and 124 patients were treated for up to 1 year. The distributions of adverse events were similar to that of the randomized, controlled studies, and were consistent with the most common opioid related adverse reactions. Adverse reactions reported in > 2.0% of subjects are presented in Table 2.

Table 2: Adverse Reactions Reported by ≥ 2.0% of Subjects in Long-Term Safety Study

Adverse Reaction EMBEDA
n (%)
Constipation 145(31%)
Nausea 103(22%)
Vomiting 37(8%)
Somnolence 34(7%)
Headache 32(7%)
Pruritus 26(6%)
Fatigue 19(4%)
Dizziness 19(4%)
Dry mouth 17(4%)
Hyperhidrosis 16(3%)
Insomnia 13(3%)
Diarrhea 10 (2%)
Anxiety 10 (2%)

Adverse Reactions Observed in the Phase 2/3 Studies

Most common ( ≥ 10%): constipation, nausea, somnolence

Common ( ≥ 1% to < 10%): vomiting, headache, dizziness, pruritus, dry mouth, diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia, hyperhidrosis, anxiety, chills, abdominal pain, lethargy, edema peripheral, dyspepsia, anorexia, muscle spasms, depression, flatulence, restlessness, decreased appetite, irritability, stomach discomfort, tremor, arthralgia, hot flush, sedation

Less Common ( < 1%):

Eye disorders: vision blurred, orthostatic hypotension

Gastrointestinal disorders: abdominal distension, pancreatitis, abdominal discomfort, fecaloma, abdominal pain lower, abdominal tenderness

General disorders and administration site conditions: malaise, asthenia, feeling jittery, drug withdrawal syndrome

Hepatobiliary disorders: cholecystitis

Investigations: alanine aminotransferase increased, aspartate aminotransferase increased

Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders: myalgia, muscular weakness

Nervous system disorders: depressed level of consciousness, mental impairment, memory impairment, disturbance in attention, stupor, paresthesia, coordination abnormal

Psychiatric disorders: disorientation, thinking abnormal, mental status changes, confusional state, euphoric mood, hallucination, abnormal dreams, mood swings, nervousness

Renal and urinary disorders: urinary retention, dysuria

Reproductive system and breast disorders: erectile dysfunction

Respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders: dyspnea, rhinorrhea

Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: rash, piloerection, cold sweat, night sweats

Vascular disorders: hypotension, flushing

Anaphylaxis has been reported with ingredients contained in EMBEDA. Advise patients how to recognize such a reaction and when to seek medical attention.

Read the Embeda (morphine sulfate and naltrexone hydrochloride) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects



Concomitant use of alcohol with EMBEDA can result in an increase of morphine plasma levels and potentially fatal overdose of morphine. Instruct patients not to consume alcoholic beverages or use prescription or non-prescription products containing alcohol while on EMBEDA therapy [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

CNS Depressants

The concomitant use of EMBEDA with other CNS depressants including sedatives, hypnotics, tranquilizers, general anesthetics, phenothiazines, other opioids, and alcohol can increase the risk of respiratory depression, profound sedation, coma and death. Monitor patients receiving CNS depressants and EMBEDA for signs of respiratory depression, sedation and hypotension.

When combined therapy with any of the above medications is considered, the dose of one or both agents should be reduced [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Mixed Agonist/Antagonist And Partial Agonist Opioid Analgesics

Mixed agonist/antagonist (i.e., pentazocine, nalbuphine, and butorphanol) and partial agonist (buprenorphine) analgesics may reduce the analgesic effect of EMBEDA and/or may precipitate withdrawal symptoms. Avoid the use of agonist/antagonist and partial agonist analgesics in patients receiving EMBEDA.

Muscle Relaxants

Opioids may enhance the neuromuscular blocking action of skeletal relaxants and produce an increased degree of respiratory depression. Monitor patients receiving muscle relaxants and EMBEDA for signs of respiratory depression that may be greater than otherwise expected.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

The effects of morphine may be potentiated by MAOIs. Monitor patients on concurrent therapy with an MAOI and EMBEDA for increased respiratory and central nervous system depression. MAOIs have been reported to potentiate the effects of morphine anxiety, confusion, and significant depression of respiration or coma. EMBEDA should not be used in patients taking MAOIs or within 14 days of stopping such treatment.


Cimetidine can potentiate morphine-induced respiratory depression. There is a report of confusion and severe respiratory depression when a patient undergoing hemodialysis was concurrently administered morphine and cimetidine. Monitor patients for respiratory depression when EMBEDA and cimetidine are used concurrently.


Morphine can reduce the efficacy of diuretics by inducing the release of antidiuretic hormone. Morphine may also lead to acute retention of urine by causing spasm of the sphincter of the bladder, particularly in men with enlarged prostates.


Anticholinergics or other drugs with anticholinergic activity when used concurrently with opioid analgesics may result in increased risk of urinary retention and/or severe constipation, which may lead to paralytic ileus. Monitor patients for signs of urinary retention or reduced gastric motility when EMBEDA is used concurrently with anticholinergic drugs.

P-Glycoprotein (PGP) Inhibitors

PGP inhibitors (e.g. quinidine) may increase the absorption/exposure of morphine by about two-fold. Monitor patients for signs of respiratory and central nervous system depression when PGP inhibitors are used concurrently with EMBEDA.

Drug Abuse And Dependence

Controlled Substance

EMBEDA contains morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse similar to other opioids including fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. EMBEDA can be abused and is subject to misuse, addiction, and criminal diversion [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

The high drug content in extended release formulations adds to the risk of adverse outcomes from abuse and misuse.


All patients treated with opioids require careful monitoring for signs of abuse and addiction, since use of opioid analgesic products carries the risk of addiction even under appropriate medical use.

Drug abuse is the intentional non-therapeutic use of an over-the-counter or prescription drug, even once, for its rewarding psychological or physiological effects. Drug abuse includes, but is not limited to the following examples: the use of a prescription or over-the counter drug to get ”high”, or the use of steroids for performance enhancement and muscle build up.

Drug addiction is a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and include: a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal.

“Drug-seeking” behavior is very common to addicts and drug abusers. Drug-seeking tactics include emergency calls or visits near the end of office hours, refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral, repeated claims of loss of prescriptions, tampering with prescriptions and reluctance to provide prior medical records or contact information for other treating physician(s). “Doctor shopping” (visiting multiple prescribers) to obtain additional prescriptions is common among drug abusers and people suffering from untreated addiction. Preoccupation with achieving adequate pain relief can be appropriate behavior in a patient with poor pain control.

Abuse and addiction are separate and distinct from physical dependence and tolerance. Physicians should be aware that addiction may not be accompanied by concurrent tolerance and symptoms of physical dependence in all addicts. In addition, abuse of opioids can occur in the absence of true addiction.

EMBEDA, like other opioids, can be diverted for non-medical use into illicit channels of distribution. Careful record-keeping of prescribing information, including quantity, frequency, and renewal requests, as required by state law, is strongly advised.

Proper assessment of the patient, proper prescribing practices, periodic re-evaluation of therapy, and proper dispensing and storage are appropriate measures that help to reduce abuse of opioid drugs.

Risks Specific to Abuse of EMBEDA

EMBEDA is for oral use only. Abuse of EMBEDA poses a risk of overdose and death. This risk is increased with concurrent abuse of EMBEDA with alcohol and other substances. Taking cut, broken, chewed, crushed, or dissolved EMBEDA enhances drug release and increases the risk of over dose and death. In opioid-tolerant individuals, the absorption of naltrexone may increase the risk of precipitating withdrawal. The sequestered naltrexone in EMBEDA is intended to have no clinical effect when EMBEDA is taken as directed; however, if the capsules are crushed or chewed, up to 100% of the sequestered naltrexone dose could be released, bioequivalent to an immediate-release naltrexone oral solution of the same dose.

Due to the presence of talc as one of the excipients in EMBEDA, parenteral abuse can be expected to result in local tissue necrosis, infection, pulmonary granulomas, and increased risk of endocarditis and valvular heart injury. Parenteral drug abuse is commonly associated with transmission of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.


Both tolerance and physical dependence can develop during chronic opioid therapy. Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of opioids to maintain a defined effect such as analgesia (in the absence of disease progression or other external factors). Tolerance may occur to both the desired and undesired effects of drugs, and may develop at different rates for different effects.

Physical dependence results in withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation or a significant dose reduction of a drug. Withdrawal also may be precipitated through the administration of drugs with opioid antagonist activity, e.g., naloxone, nalmefene, mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics (pentazocine, butorphanol, nalbuphine), or partial agonists (buprenorphine). Physical dependence may not occur to a clinically significant degree until after several days to weeks of continued opioid usage.

EMBEDA should not be abruptly discontinued [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. If EMBEDA is abruptly discontinued in a physically-dependent patient, an abstinence syndrome may occur. Some or all of the following can characterize this syndrome: restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other signs and symptoms also may develop, including: irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate.

Infants born to mothers physically dependent on opioids will also be physically dependent and may exhibit respiratory difficulties and withdrawal symptoms [see Use in Specific Populations].

Read the Embeda Drug Interactions Center for a complete guide to possible interactions

Last reviewed on RxList: 5/12/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Side Effects

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