"What are benzodiazepines, and how do they work?
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions. The exact mechanism of action of benzodiaz"...
CNS agents of the 1,4 benzodiazepine class presumably exert their effects by binding at stereospecific receptors at several sites within the central nervous system. Their exact mechanism of action is unknown. Clinically, all benzodiazepines cause a dose-related central nervous system depressant activity varying from mild impairment of task performance to hypnosis.
Following oral administration of XANAX (immediate-release) Tablets, alprazolam is readily absorbed. Peak concentrations in the plasma occur in one to two hours following administration. Plasma levels are proportional to the dose given; over the dose range of 0.5 to 3.0 mg, peak levels of 8.0 to 37 ng/mL were observed. Using a specific assay methodology, the mean plasma elimination half-life of alprazolam has been found to be about 11.2 hours (range: 6.3–26.9 hours) in healthy adults.
The mean absolute bioavailability of alprazolam from XANAX XR Tablets is approximately 90%, and the relative bioavailability compared to XANAX Tablets is 100%. The bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of alprazolam following administration of XANAX XR Tablets are similar to that for XANAX Tablets, with the exception of a slower rate of absorption. The slower absorption rate results in a relatively constant concentration that is maintained between 5 and 11 hours after the dosing. The pharmacokinetics of alprazolam and two of its major active metabolites (4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam) are linear, and concentrations are proportional up to the recommended maximum daily dose of 10 mg given once daily. Multiple dose studies indicate that the metabolism and elimination of alprazolam are similar for the immediate-release and the extended-release products.
Food has a significant influence on the bioavailability of XANAX XR Tablets. A high-fat meal given up to 2 hours before dosing with XANAX XR Tablets increased the mean Cmax by about 25%. The effect of this meal on Tmax depended on the timing of the meal, with a reduction in Tmax by about 1/3 for subjects eating immediately before dosing and an increase in Tmax by about 1/3 for subjects eating 1 hour or more after dosing. The extent of exposure (AUC) and elimination half-life (t½) were not affected by eating.
There were significant differences in absorption rate for the XANAX XR Tablet, depending on the time of day administered, with the Cmax increased by 30% and the Tmax decreased by an hour following dosing at night, compared to morning dosing.
The apparent volume of distribution of alprazolam is similar for XANAX XR and XANAX Tablets. In vitro, alprazolam is bound (80%) to human serum protein. Serum albumin accounts for the majority of the binding.
Alprazolam is extensively metabolized in humans, primarily by cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4), to two major metabolites in the plasma: 4-hydroxyalprazolam and α- hydroxyalprazolam. A benzophenone derived from alprazolam is also found in humans. Their half-lives appear to be similar to that of alprazolam. The pharmacokinetic parameters at steady-state for the two hydroxylated metabolites of alprazolam (4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam) were similar for XANAX and XANAX XR Tablets, indicating that the metabolism of alprazolam is not affected by absorption rate. The plasma concentrations of 4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam relative to unchanged alprazolam concentration after both XANAX XR and XANAX Tablets were always less than 10% and 4%, respectively. The reported relative potencies in benzodiazepine receptor binding experiments and in animal models of induced seizure inhibition are 0.20 and 0.66, respectively, for 4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam. Such low concentrations and the lesser potencies of 4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam suggest that they are unlikely to contribute much to the pharmacological effects of alprazolam. The benzophenone metabolite is essentially inactive.
Alprazolam and its metabolites are excreted primarily in the urine. The mean plasma elimination half-life of alprazolam following administration of XANAX XR Tablet ranges from 10.7–15.8 hours in healthy adults.
While pharmacokinetic studies have not been performed in special populations with XANAX XR Tablets, the factors (such as age, gender, hepatic or renal impairment) that would affect the pharmacokinetics of alprazolam after the administration of XANAX Tablets would not be expected to be different with the administration of XANAX XR Tablets.
Changes in the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of benzodiazepines have been reported in a variety of disease states including alcoholism, impaired hepatic function, and impaired renal function. Changes have also been demonstrated in geriatric patients. A mean half-life of alprazolam of 16.3 hours has been observed in healthy elderly subjects (range: 9.0–26.9 hours, n=16) compared to 11.0 hours (range: 6.3–15.8 hours, n=16) in healthy adult subjects. In patients with alcoholic liver disease the half-life of alprazolam ranged between 5.8 and 65.3 hours (mean: 19.7 hours, n=17) as compared to between 6.3 and 26.9 hours (mean=11.4 hours, n=17) in healthy subjects. In an obese group of subjects the half-life of alprazolam ranged between 9.9 and 40.4 hours (mean=21.8 hours, n=12) as compared to between 6.3 and 15.8 hours (mean=10.6 hours, n=12) in healthy subjects.
Because of its similarity to other benzodiazepines, it is assumed that alprazolam undergoes transplacental passage and that it is excreted in human milk.
Race — Maximal concentrations and half-life of alprazolam are approximately 15% and 25% higher in Asians compared to Caucasians.
Pediatrics — The pharmacokinetics of alprazolam after administration of the XANAX XR Tablet in pediatric patients have not been studied.
Gender — Gender has no effect on the pharmacokinetics of alprazolam.
Cigarette Smoking — Alprazolam concentrations may be reduced by up to 50% in smokers compared to non-smokers.
Alprazolam is primarily eliminated by metabolism via cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A). Most of the interactions that have been documented with alprazolam are with drugs that inhibit or induce CYP3A4.
Compounds that are potent inhibitors of CYP3A would be expected to increase plasma alprazolam concentrations. Drug products that have been studied in vivo, along with their effect on increasing alprazolam AUC, are as follows: ketoconazole, 3.98 fold; itraconazole, 2.70 fold; nefazodone, 1.98 fold; fluvoxamine, 1.96 fold; and erythromycin, 1.61 fold (see CONTRAINDICATIONS, WARNINGS, and PRECAUTIONS: DRUG INTERACTIONS).
CYP3A inducers would be expected to decrease alprazolam concentrations and this has been observed in vivo. The oral clearance of alprazolam (given in a 0.8 mg single dose) was increased from 0.90±0.21 mL/min/kg to 2.13±0.54 mL/min/kg and the elimination t½ was shortened (from 17.1±4.9 to 7.7 ±1.7 h) following administration of 300 mg/day carbamazepine for 10 days (see PRECAUTIONS: DRUG INTERACTIONS). However, the carbamazepine dose used in this study was fairly low compared to the recommended doses (1000–1200 mg/day); the effect at usual carbamazepine doses is unknown.
Interactions involving HIV protease inhibitors (eg, ritonavir) and alprazolam are complex and time dependent. Short-term low doses of ritonavir (4 doses of 200 mg) reduced alprazolam clearance to 41% of control values, prolonged its elimination half-life (mean values, 30 versus 13 h) and enhanced clinical effects. However, upon extended exposure to ritonavir (500 mg, twice daily), CYP3A induction offset this inhibition. Alprazolam AUC and Cmax was reduced by 12% and 16%, respectively, in the presence of ritonavir (see WARNINGS).
The ability of alprazolam to induce or inhibit human hepatic enzyme systems has not been determined. However, this is not a property of benzodiazepines in general. Further, alprazolam did not affect the prothrombin or plasma warfarin levels in male volunteers administered sodium warfarin orally.
Clinical Efficacy Trials
The efficacy of XANAX XR Tablets in the treatment of panic disorder was established in two 6-week, placebo-controlled studies of XANAX XR in patients with panic disorder.
In two 6-week, flexible-dose, placebo-controlled studies in patients meeting DSM-III criteria for panic disorder, patients were treated with XANAX XR in a dose range of 1 to 10 mg/day, on a once-a-day basis. The effectiveness of XANAX XR was assessed on the basis of changes in various measures of panic attack frequency, on various measures of the Clinical Global Impression, and on the Overall Phobia Scale. In all, there were seven primary efficacy measures in these studies, and XANAX XR was superior to placebo on all seven outcomes in both studies. The mean dose of XANAX XR at the last treatment visit was 4.2 mg/day in the first study and 4.6 mg/day in the second.
In addition, there were two 8-week, fixed-dose, placebo-controlled studies of XANAX XR in patients with panic disorder, involving fixed XANAX XR doses of 4 and 6 mg/day, on a once-a-day basis, that did not show a benefit for either dose of XANAX XR.
The longer-term efficacy of XANAX XR in panic disorder has not been systematically evaluated.
Analyses of the relationship between treatment outcome and gender did not suggest any differential responsiveness on the basis of gender.
When rats were treated with alprazolam at 3, 10, and 30 mg/kg/day (15 to 150 times the maximum recommended human dose) orally for 2 years, a tendency for a dose related increase in the number of cataracts was observed in females and a tendency for a dose related increase in corneal vascularization was observed in males. These lesions did not appear until after 11 months of treatment.
Last reviewed on RxList: 12/13/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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