July 26, 2016
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"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued final recommendations for prescribing opioids for chronic pain to combat an epidemic of prescription overdoses that claims 40 lives a day.

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Included as part of the PRECAUTIONS section.


Vulnerability To Opioid Overdose

After opioid detoxification, patients are likely to have reduced tolerance to opioids. VIVITROL blocks the effects of exogenous opioids for approximately 28 days after administration. However, as the blockade wanes and eventually dissipates completely, patients who have been treated with VIVITROL may respond to lower doses of opioids than previously used, just as they would have shortly after completing detoxification. This could result in potentially life-threatening opioid intoxication (respiratory compromise or arrest, circulatory collapse, etc.) if the patient uses previously tolerated doses of opioids. Cases of opioid overdose with fatal outcomes have been reported in patients who used opioids at the end of a dosing interval, after missing a scheduled dose, or after discontinuing treatment.

Patients should be alerted that they may be more sensitive to opioids, even at lower doses, after VIVITROL treatment is discontinued, especially at the end of a dosing interval (i.e., near the end of the month that VIVITROL was administered), or after a dose of VIVITROL is missed. It is important that patients inform family members and the people closest to the patient of this increased sensitivity to opioids and the risk of overdose [see PATIENT INFORMATION].

There is also the possibility that a patient who is treated with VIVITROL could overcome the opioid blockade effect of VIVITROL. Although VIVITROL is a potent antagonist with a prolonged pharmacological effect, the blockade produced by VIVITROL is surmountable. The plasma concentration of exogenous opioids attained immediately following their acute administration may be sufficient to overcome the competitive receptor blockade. This poses a potential risk to individuals who attempt, on their own, to overcome the blockade by administering large amounts of exogenous opioids. Any attempt by a patient to overcome the antagonism by taking opioids is especially dangerous and may lead to life-threatening opioid intoxication or fatal overdose. Patients should be told of the serious consequences of trying to overcome the opioid blockade [see PATIENT INFORMATION].

Injection Site Reactions

VIVITROL injections may be followed by pain, tenderness, induration, swelling, erythema, bruising, or pruritus; however, in some cases injection site reactions may be very severe. In the clinical trials, one patient developed an area of induration that continued to enlarge after 4 weeks, with subsequent development of necrotic tissue that required surgical excision. In the postmarketing period, additional cases of injection site reaction with features including induration, cellulitis, hematoma, abscess, sterile abscess, and necrosis, have been reported. Some cases required surgical intervention, including debridement of necrotic tissue. Some cases resulted in significant scarring. The reported cases occurred primarily in female patients.

VIVITROL is administered as an intramuscular gluteal injection, and inadvertent subcutaneous injection of VIVITROL may increase the likelihood of severe injection site reactions. The needles provided in the carton are customized needles. VIVITROL must not be injected using any other needle. The needle lengths (either 1 ° inches or 2 inches) may not be adequate in every patient because of body habitus. Body habitus should be assessed prior to each injection for each patient to assure that the proper needle is selected and that the needle length is adequate for intramuscular administration. For patients with a larger amount of subcutaneous tissue overlying the gluteal muscle, the administering healthcare provider may utilize the supplied 2inch needle with needle protection device to help ensure that the injectate reaches the intramuscular mass. For very lean patients, the 1 °-inch needle may be appropriate to prevent the needle contacting the periosteum. Either needle may be used for patients with average body habitus. Healthcare providers should ensure that the VIVITROL injection is given correctly, and should consider alternate treatment for those patients whose body habitus precludes an intramuscular gluteal injection with one of the provided needles.

Patients should be informed that any concerning injection site reactions should be brought to the attention of the healthcare provider [see PATIENT INFORMATION]. Patients exhibiting signs of abscess, cellulitis, necrosis, or extensive swelling should be evaluated by a physician to determine if referral to a surgeon is warranted.

Precipitation Of Opioid Withdrawal

The symptoms of spontaneous opioid withdrawal (which are associated with the discontinuation of opioid in a dependent individual) are uncomfortable, but they are not generally believed to be severe or necessitate hospitalization. However, when withdrawal is precipitated abruptly by the administration of an opioid antagonist to an opioid-dependent patient, the resulting withdrawal syndrome can be severe enough to require hospitalization. Review of postmarketing cases of precipitated opioid withdrawal in association with naltrexone treatment has identified cases with symptoms of withdrawal severe enough to require hospital admission, and in some cases, management in the intensive care unit.

To prevent occurrence of precipitated withdrawal in patients dependent on opioids, or exacerbation of a pre-existing subclinical withdrawal syndrome, opioid-dependent patients, including those being treated for alcohol dependence, should be opioid-free (including tramadol) before starting VIVITROL treatment. An opioid-free interval of a minimum of 7–10 days is recommended for patients previously dependent on short-acting opioids. Patients transitioning from buprenorphine or methadone may be vulnerable to precipitation of withdrawal symptoms for as long as two weeks.

If a more rapid transition from agonist to antagonist therapy is deemed necessary and appropriate by the healthcare provider, monitor the patient closely in an appropriate medical setting where precipitated withdrawal can be managed.

In every case, healthcare providers should always be prepared to manage withdrawal symptomatically with non-opioid medications because there is no completely reliable method for determining whether a patient has had an adequate opioid-free period. A naloxone challenge test may be helpful; however, a few case reports have indicated that patients may experience precipitated withdrawal despite having a negative urine toxicology screen or tolerating a naloxone challenge test (usually in the setting of transitioning from buprenorphine treatment). Patients should be made aware of the risks associated with precipitated withdrawal and encouraged to give an accurate account of last opioid use. Patients treated for alcohol dependence with VIVITROL should also be assessed for underlying opioid dependence and for any recent use of opioids prior to initiation of treatment with VIVITROL. Precipitated opioid withdrawal has been observed in alcohol-dependent patients in circumstances where the prescriber had been unaware of the additional use of opioids or co-dependence on opioids.


Cases of hepatitis and clinically significant liver dysfunction were observed in association with VIVITROL exposure during the clinical development program and in the postmarketing period. Transient, asymptomatic hepatic transaminase elevations were also observed in the clinical trials and postmarketing period. Although patients with clinically significant liver disease were not systematically studied, clinical trials did include patients with asymptomatic viral hepatitis infections. When patients presented with elevated transaminases, there were often other potential causative or contributory etiologies identified, including pre-existing alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis B and/or C infection, and concomitant usage of other potentially hepatotoxic drugs. Although clinically significant liver dysfunction is not typically recognized as a manifestation of opioid withdrawal, opioid withdrawal that is precipitated abruptly may lead to systemic sequelae including acute liver injury.

Patients should be warned of the risk of hepatic injury and advised to seek medical attention if they experience symptoms of acute hepatitis. Use of VIVITROL should be discontinued in the event of symptoms and/or signs of acute hepatitis.

Depression And Suicidality

Alcohol-and opioid-dependent patients, including those taking VIVITROL, should be monitored for the development of depression or suicidal thinking. Families and caregivers of patients being treated with VIVITROL should be alerted to the need to monitor patients for the emergence of symptoms of depression or suicidality, and to report such symptoms to the patient's healthcare provider.

Alcohol Dependence

In controlled clinical trials of VIVITROL administered to adults with alcohol dependence, adverse events of a suicidal nature (suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, completed suicides) were infrequent overall, but were more common in patients treated with VIVITROL than in patients treated with placebo (1% vs 0). In some cases, the suicidal thoughts or behavior occurred after study discontinuation, but were in the context of an episode of depression that began while the patient was on study drug. Two completed suicides occurred, both involving patients treated with VIVITROL.

Depression-related events associated with premature discontinuation of study drug were also more common in patients treated with VIVITROL (~1%) than in placebo-treated patients (0).

In the 24-week, placebo-controlled pivotal trial in 624 alcohol-dependent patients, adverse events involving depressed mood were reported by 10% of patients treated with VIVITROL 380 mg, as compared to 5% of patients treated with placebo injections.

Opioid Dependence

In an open-label, long-term safety study conducted in the US, adverse events of a suicidal nature (depressed mood, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt) were reported by 5% of opioid-dependent patients treated with VIVITROL 380 mg (n=101) and 10% of opioid-dependent patients treated with oral naltrexone (n=20). In the 24-week, placebo-controlled pivotal trial that was conducted in Russia in 250 opioid-dependent patients, adverse events involving depressed mood or suicidal thinking were not reported by any patient in either treatment group (VIVITROL 380 mg or placebo).

When Reversal Of VIVITROL Blockade Is Required For Pain Management

In an emergency situation in patients receiving VIVITROL, suggestions for pain management include regional analgesia or use of non-opioid analgesics. If opioid therapy is required as part of anesthesia or analgesia, patients should be continuously monitored in an anesthesia care setting by persons not involved in the conduct of the surgical or diagnostic procedure. The opioid therapy must be provided by individuals specifically trained in the use of anesthetic drugs and the management of the respiratory effects of potent opioids, specifically the establishment and maintenance of a patent airway and assisted ventilation.

Irrespective of the drug chosen to reverse VIVITROL blockade, the patient should be monitored closely by appropriately trained personnel in a setting equipped and staffed for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Eosinophilic Pneumonia

In clinical trials with VIVITROL, there was one diagnosed case and one suspected case of eosinophilic pneumonia. Both cases required hospitalization, and resolved after treatment with antibiotics and corticosteroids. Similar cases have been reported in postmarketing use. Should a person receiving VIVITROL develop progressive dyspnea and hypoxemia, the diagnosis of eosinophilic pneumonia should be considered [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. Patients should be warned of the risk of eosinophilic pneumonia, and advised to seek medical attention should they develop symptoms of pneumonia. Clinicians should consider the possibility of eosinophilic pneumonia in patients who do not respond to antibiotics.

Hypersensitivity Reactions Including Anaphylaxis

Cases of urticaria, angioedema, and anaphylaxis have been observed with use of VIVITROL in the clinical trial setting and in postmarketing use. Patients should be warned of the risk of hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis. In the event of a hypersensitivity reaction, patients should be advised to seek immediate medical attention in a healthcare setting prepared to treat anaphylaxis. The patient should not receive any further treatment with VIVITROL.

Intramuscular Injections

As with any intramuscular injection, VIVITROL should be administered with caution to patients with thrombocytopenia or any coagulation disorder (eg, hemophilia and severe hepatic failure).

Alcohol Withdrawal

Use of VIVITROL does not eliminate nor diminish alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Interference With Laboratory Tests

VIVITROL may be cross-reactive with certain immunoassay methods for the detection of drugs of abuse (specifically opioids) in urine. For further information, reference to the specific immunoassay instructions is recommended.

Patient Counseling Information

See FDA-Approved Medication Guide.

Physicians should include the following issues in discussions with patients for whom they prescribe VIVITROL:

  • Advise patients that if they previously used opioids, they may be more sensitive to lower doses of opioids and at risk of accidental overdose should they use opioids when their next dose is due, if they miss a dose, or after VIVITROL treatment is discontinued. It is important that patients inform family members and the people closest to the patient of this increased sensitivity to opioids and the risk of overdose.
  • Advise patients that because VIVITROL can block the effects of opioids, patients will not perceive any effect if they attempt to self-administer heroin or any other opioid drug in small doses while on VIVITROL. Further, emphasize that administration of large doses of heroin or any other opioid to try to bypass the blockade and get high while on VIVITROL may lead to serious injury, coma, or death.
  • Patients on VIVITROL may not experience the expected effects from opioid-containing analgesic, antidiarrheal, or antitussive medications.
  • Advise patients that a reaction at the site of VIVITROL injection may occur. Reactions include pain, tenderness, induration, swelling, erythema, bruising, or pruritus. Serious injection site reactions including necrosis may occur. Some of these injection site reactions have required surgery. Patients should receive their injection from a healthcare provider qualified to administer the injection. Patients should be advised to seek medical attention for worsening skin reactions.
  • Advise patients that they should be off all opioids, including opioid-containing medicines, for a minimum of 7 – 10 days before starting VIVITROL in order to avoid precipitation of opioid withdrawal. Patients transitioning from buprenorphine or methadone may be vulnerable to precipitation of withdrawal symptoms for as long as two weeks. Ensure that patients understand that withdrawal precipitated by administration of an opioid antagonist may be severe enough to require hospitalization if they have not been opioid-free for an adequate period of time, and is different from the experience of spontaneous withdrawal that occurs with discontinuation of opioid in a dependent individual. Advise patients that they should not take VIVITROL if they have any symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Advise all patients, including those with alcohol dependence, that it is imperative to notify healthcare providers of any recent use of opioids or any history of opioid dependence before starting VIVITROL to avoid precipitation of opioid withdrawal.
  • Advise patients that VIVITROL may cause liver injury. Patients should immediately notify their physician if they develop symptoms and/or signs of liver disease.
  • Advise patients that they may experience depression while taking VIVITROL. It is important that patients inform family members and the people closest to the patient that they are taking VIVITROL and that they should call a doctor right away should they become depressed or experience symptoms of depression.
  • Advise patients to carry documentation to alert medical personnel to the fact that they are taking VIVITROL (naltrexone for extended-release injectable suspension). This will help to ensure that patients obtain adequate medical treatment in an emergency.
  • Advise patients that VIVITROL may cause an allergic pneumonia. Patients should immediately notify their physician if they develop signs and symptoms of pneumonia, including dyspnea, coughing, or wheezing.
  • Advise patients that they should not take VIVITROL if they are allergic to VIVITROL or any of the microsphere or diluent components.
  • Advise patients that they may experience nausea following the initial injection of VIVITROL. These episodes of nausea tend to be mild and subside within a few days post-injection. Patients are less likely to experience nausea in subsequent injections. Patients should be advised that they may also experience tiredness, headache, vomiting, decreased appetite, painful joints and muscle cramps.
  • Advise patients that because VIVITROL is an intramuscular injection and not an implanted device, once VIVITROL is injected, it is not possible to remove it from the body.
  • Advise patients that VIVITROL has been shown to treat alcohol and opioid dependence only when used as part of a treatment program that includes counseling and support.
  • Advise patients that dizziness may occur with VIVITROL treatment, and they should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery until they have determined how VIVITROL affects them.
  • Advise patients to notify their physician if they:
    • become pregnant or intend to become pregnant during treatment with VIVITROL.
    • are breast-feeding.
    • experience respiratory symptoms such as dyspnea, coughing, or wheezing when taking VIVITROL.
    • experience any allergic reactions when taking VIVITROL.
    • experience other unusual or significant side effects while on VIVITROL therapy.
  • Patients should be advised of any other risks and information based on the clinical judgment of their physician.
Frequently Asked Questions About Administering VIVITROL

1. Can I prepare the suspension prior to my patient's arrival?

No. You may remove the carton from the refrigerator prior to the patient's arrival, but once the diluent is added to the VIVITROL microspheres, the dose should be mixed and the suspension administered immediately. It is very important to use proper aseptic technique when preparing the suspension [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

2. How much time do I have between preparing and administering the dose?

It is recommended that the suspension be administered immediately once the product has been suspended and transferred into the syringe. If a few minutes' delay occurs after suspension but before transfer into the syringe [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Figure D)], the vial can be inverted a few times to resuspend and then transferred into the syringe for immediate use [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

3. Can I use needles other than those provided in the carton?

No. The needles in the carton are specially designed for administration of VIVITROL. Do not make any substitutions for components of the carton [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

4. The suspension is milky white upon mixing with the diluent. Is this normal?

Yes. VIVITROL microspheres will form a milky suspension when mixed with the provided diluent [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

5. What if a needle clog occurs during administration of the product?

If a clog occurs during administration, the needle should be withdrawn from the patient, capped with the attached needle protection device, and replaced with the spare administration needle. Gently push on the plunger until a bead of the suspension appears at the tip of the needle. The remainder of the suspension should then be administered into an adjacent site in the same gluteal region [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility


Carcinogenicity studies have not been conducted with VIVITROL.

Carcinogenicity studies of oral naltrexone hydrochloride (administered via the diet) have been conducted in rats and mice.

In a two-year carcinogenicity study in rats, there were small increases in the numbers of testicular mesotheliomas in males and tumors of vascular origin in males and females. The incidence of testicular mesothelioma in males given naltrexone at a dietary dose of 100 mg/kg/day (3-times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison) was 6%, compared with a maximum historical incidence of 4%. The incidence of vascular tumors in males and females given dietary doses of 100 mg/kg/day was 4% but only the incidence in females was increased compared with a maximum historical control incidence of 2% (3 and 32 times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison in males and females, respectively). There was no evidence of carcinogenicity in a 2-year dietary study with naltrexone in male and female mice (12 and 3 times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison, respectively). The clinical significance of these findings is not known.


Naltrexone was negative in the following in vitro genotoxicity studies: bacterial reverse mutation assay (Ames test), the heritable translocation assay, CHO cell sister chromatid exchange assay, and the mouse lymphoma gene mutation assay. Naltrexone was also negative in an in vivo mouse micronucleus assay. In contrast, naltrexone tested positive in the following assays: Drosophila recessive lethal frequency assay, non-specific DNA damage in repair tests with E. coli and WI-38 cells, and urinalysis for methylated histidine residues.

Impairment of Fertility

Naltrexone given via oral gavage caused a significant increase in pseudopregnancy and a decrease in pregnancy rates in rats at 100 mg/kg/day (75 times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison). There was no effect on male fertility at this dose level (6 times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison). The relevance of these observations to human fertility is not known.

Use In Specific Populations


There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of either naltrexone or VIVITROL in pregnant women. VIVITROL should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Pregnancy Category C: Reproduction and developmental studies have not been conducted for VIVITROL. Studies with naltrexone administered via the oral route have been conducted in pregnant rats and rabbits.

Teratogenic Effects

Naltrexone has been shown to increase the incidence of early fetal loss when given to rats at doses ≥ 30 mg/kg/day (11 times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison) and to rabbits at oral doses ≥ 60 mg/kg/day (2 times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison).

There was no evidence of teratogenicity when naltrexone was administered orally to rats and rabbits during the period of major organogenesis at doses up to 200 mg/kg/day (175-and 14times the human exposure based on an AUC(0-28d) comparison, respectively).

Labor And Delivery

The potential effect of VIVITROL on duration of labor and delivery in humans is unknown.

Nursing Mothers

Transfer of naltrexone and 6β-naltrexol into human milk has been reported with oral naltrexone. Because of the potential for tumorigenicity shown for naltrexone in animal studies, and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from VIVITROL, 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.

Pediatric Use

The safety and efficacy of VIVITROL have not been established in the pediatric population. The pharmacokinetics of VIVITROL have not been evaluated in a pediatric population.

Geriatric Use

In trials of alcohol-dependent subjects, 2.6% (n=26) of subjects were > 65 years of age, and one patient was > 75 years of age. Clinical studies of VIVITROL did not include sufficient numbers of subjects age 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. No subjects over age 65 were included in studies of opioid-dependent subjects. The pharmacokinetics of VIVITROL have not been evaluated in the geriatric population.

Renal Impairment

Pharmacokinetics of VIVITROL are not altered in subjects with mild renal insufficiency (creatinine clearance of 50-80 mL/min). Dose adjustment is not required in patients with mild renal impairment. VIVITROL pharmacokinetics have not been evaluated in subjects with moderate and severe renal insufficiency. Because naltrexone and its primary metabolite are excreted primarily in the urine, caution is recommended in administering VIVITROL to patients with moderate to severe renal impairment [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Hepatic Impairment

The pharmacokinetics of VIVITROL are not altered in subjects with mild to moderate hepatic impairment (Groups A and B of the Child-Pugh classification). Dose adjustment is not required in subjects with mild or moderate hepatic impairment. VIVITROL pharmacokinetics were not evaluated in subjects with severe hepatic impairment [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Last reviewed on RxList: 12/22/2015


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