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The use of drugs of the tetracycline class during tooth development (last half of pregnancy, infancy and childhood to the age of 8 years) may cause permanent discoloration of the teeth (yellow-gray-brown).This adverse reaction is more common during long-term use of the drugs, but it has been observed following repeated short-term courses. Enamel hypoplasia has also been reported. Tetracycline drugs, therefore, should not be used in this age group, except for anthrax, including inhalational anthrax (post-exposure), unless other drugs are not likely to be effective or are contraindicated.
Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD) has been reported with use of nearly all antibacterial agents, including Vibramycin, and may range in severity from mild diarrhea to fatal colitis. Treatment with antibacterial agents alters the normal flora of the colon leading to overgrowth of C. difficile.
C. difficile produces toxins A and B which contribute to the development of CDAD. Hypertoxin producing strains of C. difficile cause increased morbidity and mortality, as these infections can be refractory to antimicrobial therapy and may require colectomy. CDAD must be considered in all patients who present with diarrhea following the use of antibacterial drugs. Careful medical history is necessary since CDAD has been reported to occur over two months after the administration of antibacterial agents.
If CDAD is suspected or confirmed, ongoing use of antibacterial drugs not directed against C. difficile may need to be discontinued. Appropriate fluid and electrolyte management, protein supplementation, antibacterial treatment of C. difficile, and surgical evaluation should be instituted as clinically indicated.
Intracranial hypertension (IH, pseudotumor cerebri) has been associated with the use of tetracyclines including Vibramycin. Clinical manifestations of IH include headache, blurred vision, diplopia, and vision loss; papilledema can be found on fundoscopy. Women of childbearing age who are overweight or have a history of IH are at greater risk for developing tetracycline associated IH. Concomitant use of isotretinoin and Vibramycin should be avoided because isotretinoin is also known to cause pseudotumor cerebri.
Although IH typically resolves after discontinuation of treatment, the possibility for permanent visual loss exists. If visual disturbance occurs during treatment, prompt ophthalmologic evaluation is warranted. Since intracranial pressure can remain elevated for weeks after drug cessation patients should be monitored until they stabilize.
All tetracyclines form a stable calcium complex in any bone-forming tissue. A decrease in fibula growth rate has been observed in prematures given oral tetracycline in doses of 25 mg/kg every 6 hours. This reaction was shown to be reversible when the drug was discontinued.
Results of animal studies indicate that tetracyclines cross the placenta, are found in fetal tissues, and can have toxic effects on the developing fetus (often related to retardation of skeletal development). Evidence of embryotoxicity has also been noted in animals treated early in pregnancy. If any tetracycline is used during pregnancy or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus.
The antianabolic action of the tetracyclines may cause an increase in BUN. Studies to date indicate that this does not occur with the use of doxycycline in patients with impaired renal function.
Photosensitivity manifested by an exaggerated sunburn reaction has been observed in some individuals taking tetracyclines. Patients apt to be exposed to direct sunlight or ultraviolet light should be advised that this reaction can occur with tetracycline drugs, and treatment should be discontinued at the first evidence of skin erythema.
Vibramycin Syrup contains sodium metabisulfite, a sulfite that may cause allergic-type reactions, including anaphylactic symptoms and life-threatening or less severe asthmatic episodes in certain susceptible people. The overall prevalence of sulfite sensitivity in the general population is unknown and probably low. Sulfite sensitivity is seen more frequently in asthmatic than in non-asthmatic people.
As with other antibacterial drugs, use of Vibramycin may result in overgrowth of nonsusceptible organisms, including fungi. If superinfection occurs, Vibramycin should be discontinued and appropriate therapy instituted.
Incision and drainage or other surgical procedures should be performed in conjunction with antibacterial therapy, when indicated.
Doxycycline offers substantial but not complete suppression of the asexual blood stages of Plasmodium strains.
Doxycycline does not suppress P. falciparum's sexual blood stage gametocytes. Subjects completing this prophylactic regimen may still transmit the infection to mosquitoes outside endemic areas.
Prescribing Vibramycin in the absence of proven or strongly suspected bacterial infection or a prophylactic indication is unlikely to provide benefit to the patient and increases the risk of the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
In venereal disease, when co-existent syphilis is suspected, dark field examinations should be done before treatment is started and the blood serology repeated monthly for at least 4 months.
In long-term therapy, periodic laboratory evaluation of organ systems, including hematopoietic, renal, and hepatic studies, should be performed.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility
Long-term studies in animals to evaluate carcinogenic potential of doxycycline have not been conducted. However, there has been evidence of oncogenic activity in rats in studies with the related antibacterial drugs, oxytetracycline (adrenal and pituitary tumors), and minocycline (thyroid tumors).
Likewise, although mutagenicity studies of doxycycline have not been conducted, positive results in in vitro mammalian cell assays have been reported for related antibacterial drugs (tetracycline, oxytetracycline).
Doxycycline administered orally at dosage levels as high as 250 mg/kg/day had no apparent effect on the fertility of female rats. Effect on male fertility has not been studied.
Pregnancy Category D
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies on the use of doxycycline in pregnant women. The vast majority of reported experience with doxycycline during human pregnancy is short-term, first trimester exposure. There are no human data available to assess the effects of long-term therapy of doxycycline in pregnant women, such as that proposed for treatment of anthrax exposure. An expert review of published data on experiences with doxycycline use during pregnancy by TERIS – the Teratogen Information System – concluded that therapeutic doses during pregnancy are unlikely to pose a substantial teratogenic risk (the quantity and quality of data were assessed as limited to fair), but the data are insufficient to state that there is no risk2. A case-control study (18,515 mothers of infants with congenital anomalies and 32,804 mothers of infants with no congenital anomalies) shows a weak but marginally statistically significant association with total malformations and use of doxycycline anytime during pregnancy. Sixty-three (0.19%) of the controls and fifty-six (0.30%) of the cases were treated with doxycycline. This association was not seen when the analysis was confined to maternal treatment during the period of organogenesis (i.e., in the second and third months of gestation) with the exception of a marginal relationship with neural tube defect based on only two exposed cases3.
A small prospective study of 81 pregnancies describes 43 pregnant women treated for 10 days with doxycycline during early first trimester. All mothers reported their exposed infants were normal at 1 year of age4.
Labor And Delivery
The effect of tetracyclines on labor and delivery is unknown.
Tetracyclines are excreted in human milk; however, the extent of absorption of tetracyclines, including doxycycline, by the breastfed infant is not known. Short-term use by lactating women is not necessarily contraindicated; however, the effects of prolonged exposure to doxycycline in breast milk are unknown5. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from doxycycline, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother. (See WARNINGS.)
See WARNINGS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION.
2Friedman JM and Polifka JE. Teratogenic Effects of Drugs. A Resource for Clinicians (TERIS). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000: 149–195.
3 Cziezel AE and Rockenbauer M. Teratogenic study of doxycycline. Obstet Gynecol 1997; 89: 524–528.
4 Horne HW Jr and Kundsin RB. The role of mycoplasma among 81 consecutive pregnancies: a prospective study. Int J Fertil 1980; 25: 315–317.
5 Hale T. Medications and Mothers Milk. 9th edition. Amarillo, TX: Pharmasoft Publishing, 2000: 225–226.
Last reviewed on RxList: 5/18/2015
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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