Levophed

Last updated on RxList: 3/4/2021
Drug Description

What is Levophed and how is it used?

Levophed (norepinephrine bitartrate) is a vasoconstrictor, similar to adrenaline, used to treat life-threatening low blood pressure (hypotension) that can occur with certain medical conditions or surgical procedures. Levophed is often used during or after CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Levophed is available in generic form.

What are side effects of Levophed?

Tell your doctor if you have serious side effects of Levophed include:

  • dizziness,
  • weakness,
  • headache,
  • slow heart rate,
  • breathing difficulty, or
  • redness and swelling at the injection site.

Serious side effects of Levophed include:

  • pain or burning where the injection is given,
  • sudden numbness/weakness/cold feeling in your body,
  • blue lips or fingernails,
  • urinating less than usual or not at all,
  • trouble breathing,
  • dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, seizure).

DESCRIPTION

Norepinephrine (sometimes referred to as l-arterenol/Levarterenol or l-norepinephrine) is a sympathomimetic amine which differs from epinephrine by the absence of a methyl group on the nitrogen atom.

Norepinephrine Bitartrate is (-)-α-(aminomethyl)-3,4-dihydroxybenzyl alcohol tartrate (1:1) (salt) monohydrate and has the following structural formula:

Levophed™ (norepinephrine bitartrate) Structural Formula Illustration

LEVOPHED is supplied in sterile aqueous solution in the form of the bitartrate salt to be administered by intravenous infusion following dilution. Norepinephrine is sparingly soluble in water, very slightly soluble in alcohol and ether, and readily soluble in acids. Each mL contains the equivalent of 1 mg base of norepinephrine, sodium chloride for isotonicity, and not more than 2 mg of sodium metabisulfite as an antioxidant. It has a pH of 3 to 4.5. The air in the ampuls has been displaced by nitrogen gas.

Indications & Dosage

INDICATIONS

LEVOPHED is indicated to raise blood pressure in adult patients with severe, acute hypotension.

DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION

Important Dosage And Administration Instructions

Correct Hypovolemia

Address hypovolemia before initiation of LEVOPHED therapy. If the patient does not respond to therapy, suspect occult hypovolemia [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Administration

Dilute LEVOPHED prior to use [see Preparation Of Diluted Solution].

Infuse LEVOPHED into a large vein. Avoid infusions into the veins of the leg in the elderly or in patients with occlusive vascular disease of the legs [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Avoid using a catheter-tie-in technique.

Discontinuation

When discontinuing the infusion, reduce the flow rate gradually. Avoid abrupt withdrawal.

Dosage

After an initial dosage of 8 to 12 mcg per minute via intravenous infusion, assess patient response and adjust dosage to maintain desired hemodynamic effect. Monitor blood pressure every two minutes until the desired hemodynamic effect is achieved, and then monitor blood pressure every five minutes for the duration of the infusion.

Typical maintenance intravenous dosage is 2 to 4 mcg per minute.

Preparation Of Diluted Solution

Visually inspect LEVOPHED for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration (the solution is colorless). Do not use the solution if its color is pinkish or darker than slightly yellow or if it contains a precipitate.

Add the content of one LEVOPHED vial or ampule (4 mg in 4 mL) to 1,000 mL of 5% Dextrose Injection, USP or Sodium Chloride Injection solutions that contain 5% dextrose to produce a 4 mcg per mL dilution. Dextrose reduces loss of potency due to oxidation. Administration in saline solution alone is not recommended.

Use higher concentration solutions in patients requiring fluid restriction. Prior to use, store the diluted LEVOPHED solution for up to 24 hours at room temperature [20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F)] and protect from light.

Drug Incompatibilities

Avoid contact with iron salts, alkalis, or oxidizing agents.

Whole blood or plasma, if indicated to increase blood volume, should be administered separately.

HOW SUPPLIED

Dosage Forms And Strengths

Injection

4 mg/4 mL (1 mg/mL norepinephrine base) sterile, colorless solution in a single-dose amber glass vial.

Injection

4 mg/4 mL (1 mg/mL norepinephrine base) sterile, colorless solution in a single-dose clear glass ampule.

Storage And Handling

LEVOPHED (norepinephrine bitartrate) injection, USP, is a sterile, colorless solution for injection intended for intravenous use. It contains the equivalent of 1 mg of norepinephrine base per 1 mL (4 mg/4 mL). It is available as 4 mg/4 mL in single-dose amber glass vials and in single-dose clear glass ampules. Supplied as:

Unit of SaleConcentration
NDC 0409-3375-04
10 vials in a Carton
4 mg/4 mL
(1 mg/mL)
NDC 0409-1443-04
10 ampules in a Carton
4 mg/4 mL
(1 mg/mL)

Store at 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F); excursions permitted to 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F). [See USP Controlled Room Temperature.]

Store in original carton until time of administration to protect from light. Discard unused portion.

Distributed by Hospira, Inc., Lake Forest, IL 60045 USA. Revised: Oct 2020

SLIDESHOW

Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension): Symptoms, Signs, Causes See Slideshow
Side Effects & Drug Interactions

SIDE EFFECTS

The following adverse reactions are described in greater detail in other sections:

  • Tissue Ischemia [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Hypotension [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Cardiac Arrhythmias [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

The most common adverse reactions are hypertension and bradycardia.

The following adverse reactions can occur:

Nervous system disorders: Anxiety, headache

Respiratory disorders: Respiratory difficulty, pulmonary edema

DRUG INTERACTIONS

MAO-Inhibiting Drugs

Co-administration of LEVOPHED with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors or other drugs with MAO-inhibiting properties (e.g., linezolid) can cause severe, prolonged hypertension.

If administration of LEVOPHED cannot be avoided in patients who recently have received any of these drugs and in whom, after discontinuation, MAO activity has not yet sufficiently recovered, monitor for hypertension.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Co-administration of LEVOPHED with tricyclic antidepressants (including amitriptyline, nortriptyline, protriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, imipramine) can cause severe, prolonged hypertension. If administration of LEVOPHED cannot be avoided in these patients, monitor for hypertension.

Antidiabetics

LEVOPHED can decrease insulin sensitivity and raise blood glucose. Monitor glucose and consider dosage adjustment of antidiabetic drugs.

Halogenated Anesthetics

Concomitant use of LEVOPHED with halogenated anesthetics (e.g., cyclopropane, desflurane, enflurane, isoflurane, and sevoflurane) may lead to ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. Monitor cardiac rhythm in patients receiving concomitant halogenated anesthetics.

Warnings & Precautions

WARNINGS

Included as part of the "PRECAUTIONS" Section

PRECAUTIONS

Tissue Ischemia

Administration of LEVOPHED to patients who are hypotensive from hypovolemia can result in severe peripheral and visceral vasoconstriction, decreased renal perfusion and reduced urine output, tissue hypoxia, lactic acidosis, and reduced systemic blood flow despite “normal” blood pressure. Address hypovolemia prior to initiating LEVOPHED [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. Avoid LEVOPHED in patients with mesenteric or peripheral vascular thrombosis, as this may increase ischemia and extend the area of infarction.

Gangrene of the extremities has occurred in patients with occlusive or thrombotic vascular disease or who received prolonged or high dose infusions. Monitor for changes to the skin of the extremities in susceptible patients.

Extravasation of LEVOPHED may cause necrosis and sloughing of surrounding tissue. To reduce the risk of extravasation, infuse into a large vein, check the infusion site frequently for free flow, and monitor for signs of extravasation [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Emergency Treatment Of Extravasation

To prevent sloughing and necrosis in areas in which extravasation has occurred, infiltrate the ischemic area as soon as possible, using a syringe with a fine hypodermic needle with 5 to 10 mg of phentolamine mesylate in 10 to 15 mL of 0.9% Sodium Chloride Injection in adults.

Sympathetic blockade with phentolamine causes immediate and conspicuous local hyperemic changes if the area is infiltrated within 12 hours.

Hypotension After Abrupt Discontinuation

Sudden cessation of the infusion rate may result in marked hypotension. When discontinuing the infusion, gradually reduce the LEVOPHED infusion rate while expanding blood volume with intravenous fluids.

Cardiac Arrhythmias

LEVOPHED elevates intracellular calcium concentrations and may cause arrhythmias, particularly in the setting of hypoxia or hypercarbia. Perform continuous cardiac monitoring of patients with arrhythmias.

Allergic Reactions Associated With Sulfite

LEVOPHED 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. Sulfite sensitivity is seen more frequently in asthmatic than in non-asthmatic people.

Nonclinical Toxicology

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility

Carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, and fertility studies have not been performed.

Use In Specific Populations

Pregnancy

Risk Summary

Limited published data consisting of a small number of case reports and multiple small trials involving the use of norepinephrine in pregnant women at the time of delivery have not identified an increased risk of major birth defects, miscarriage or adverse maternal or fetal outcomes. There are risks to the mother and fetus from hypotension associated with septic shock, myocardial infarction and stroke which are medical emergencies in pregnancy and can be fatal if left untreated. (see Clinical Considerations). In animal reproduction studies, using high doses of intravenous norepinephrine resulted in lowered maternal placental blood flow. Clinical relevance to changes in the human fetus is unknown since the average maintenance dose is ten times lower (see Data). Increased fetal reabsorptions were observed in pregnant hamsters after receiving daily injections at approximately 2 times the maximum recommended dose on a mg/m3 basis for four days during organogenesis (see Data).

The estimated background risk for major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown. All pregnancies have a background risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in the clinically recognized pregnancies is 2-4% and 15−20%, respectively.

Clinical Considerations

Disease-associated maternal and/or embryo/fetal risk

Hypotension associated with septic shock, myocardial infarction, and stroke are medical emergencies in pregnancy which can be fatal if left untreated. Delaying treatment in pregnant women with hypotension associated with septic shock, myocardial infarction and stroke may increase the risk of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Life-sustaining therapy for the pregnant woman should not be withheld due to potential concerns regarding the effects of norepinephrine on the fetus.

Data

Animal Data

A study in pregnant sheep receiving high doses of intravenous norepinephrine (40 mcg/min, at approximately 10 times the average maintenance dose of 2-4 mcg/min in human, on a mg/kg basis) exhibited a significant decrease in maternal placental blood flow. Decreases in fetal oxygenation, urine and lung liquid flow were also observed.

Norepinephrine administration to pregnant rats on Gestation Day 16 or 17 resulted in cataract production in rat fetuses.

In hamsters, an increased number of resorptions (29.1% in study group vs. 3.4% in control group), fetal microscopic liver abnormalities and delayed skeletal ossification were observed at approximately 2 times the maximum recommended intramuscular or subcutaneous dose (on a mg/m2 basis at a maternal subcutaneous dose of 0.5 mg/kg/day from Gestation Day 7-10).

Lactation

Risk Summary

There are no data on the presence of norepinephrine in either human or animal milk, the effects on the breastfed infant, or the effects on milk production. Clinically relevant exposure to the infant is not expected based on the short half-life and poor oral bioavailability of norepinephrine.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of LEVOPHED did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.

Avoid administration of LEVOPHED into the veins in the leg in elderly patients [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Overdosage & Contraindications

OVERDOSE

Overdosage with LEVOPHED may result in headache, severe hypertension, reflex bradycardia, marked increase in peripheral resistance, and decreased cardiac output.

In case of overdosage, discontinue LEVOPHED until the condition of the patient stabilizes.

CONTRAINDICATIONS

None.

Clinical Pharmacology

CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY

Mechanism Of Action

Norepinephrine is a peripheral vasoconstrictor (alpha-adrenergic action) and an inotropic stimulator of the heart and dilator of coronary arteries (beta-adrenergic action).

Pharmacodynamics

The primary pharmacodynamic effects of norepinephrine are cardiac stimulation and vasoconstriction. Cardiac output is generally unaffected, although it can be decreased, and total peripheral resistance is also elevated. The elevation in resistance and pressure result in reflex vagal activity, which slows the heart rate and increases stroke volume. The elevation in vascular tone or resistance reduces blood flow to the major abdominal organs as well as to skeletal muscle. Coronary blood flow is substantially increased secondary to the indirect effects of alpha stimulation. After intravenous administration, a pressor response occurs rapidly and reaches steady state within 5 minutes. The pharmacologic actions of norepinephrine are terminated primarily by uptake and metabolism in sympathetic nerve endings. The pressor action stops within 1-2 minutes after the infusion is discontinued.

Pharmacokinetics

Absorption

Following initiation of intravenous infusion, the steady state plasma concentration is achieved in 5 min.

Distribution

Plasma protein binding of norepinephrine is approximately 25%. It is mainly bound to plasma albumin and to a smaller extent to prealbumin and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein. The volume of distribution is 8.8 L. Norepinephrine localizes mainly in sympathetic nervous tissue. It crosses the placenta but not the blood-brain barrier.

Elimination

The mean half-life of norepinephrine is approximately 2.4 min. The average metabolic clearance is 3.1 L/min.

Metabolism

Norepinephrine is metabolized in the liver and other tissues by a combination of reactions involving the enzymes catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and MAO. The major metabolites are normetanephrine and 3- methoxyl-4-hydroxy mandelic acid (vanillylmandelic acid, VMA), both of which are inactive. Other inactive metabolites include 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol, 3,4-dihydroxymandelic acid, and 3,4- dihydroxyphenylglycol.

Excretion

Noradrenaline metabolites are excreted in urine primarily as sulphate conjugates and, to a lesser extent, as glucuronide conjugates. Only small quantities of norepinephrine are excreted unchanged.

Medication Guide

PATIENT INFORMATION

No information provided. Please refer to the WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS sections.

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