Promethazine and Dextromethorphan

Name: Promethazine and Dextromethorphan

Promethazine and Dextromethorphan - Clinical Pharmacology


Dextromethorphan is an antitussive agent and, unlike the isomeric levorphanol, it has no analgesic or addictive properties.

The drug acts centrally and elevates the threshold for coughing. It is about equal to codeine in depressing the cough reflex. In therapeutic dosage dextromethorphan does not inhibit ciliary activity.

Dextromethorphan is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and exerts its effect in 15 to 30 minutes. The duration of action after oral administration is approximately three to six hours. Dextromethorphan is metabolized primarily by liver enzymes undergoing O-demethylation, N-demethylation, and partial conjugation with glucuronic acid and sulfate. In humans, (+)-3-hydroxy-N-methyl-morphinan, (+)-3-hydroxymorphinan, and traces of unmetabolized drug were found in urine after oral administration.


Promethazine is a phenothiazine derivative which differs structurally from the antipsychotic phenothiazines by the presence of a branched side chain and no ring substitution. It is thought that this configuration is responsible for its relative lack (1/10 that of chlorpromazine) of dopamine antagonist properties.

Promethazine is an H1 receptor blocking agent. In addition to its antihistaminic action, it provides clinically useful sedative and antiemetic effects.

Promethazine is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Clinical effects are apparent within 20 minutes after oral administration and generally last four to six hours, although they may persist as long as 12 hours. Promethazine is metabolized by the liver to a variety of compounds; the sulfoxides of promethazine and N-demethylpromethazine are the predominant metabolites appearing in the urine.

Adverse Reactions


Dextromethorphan hydrobromide occasionally causes slight drowsiness, dizziness, and gastrointestinal disturbances.


Central Nervous System -Drowsiness is the most prominent CNS effect of this drug. Sedation, somnolence, blurred vision, dizziness; confusion, disorientation, and extrapyramidal symptoms such as oculogyric crisis, torticollis, and tongue protrusion; lassitude, tinnitus, incoordination, fatigue, euphoria, nervousness, diplopia, insomnia, tremors, convulsive seizures, excitation, catatonic-like states, hysteria. Hallucinations have also been reported.

Cardiovascular - Increased or decreased blood pressure, tachycardia, bradycardia, faintness.

Dermatologic - Dermatitis, photosensitivity, urticaria.

Hematologic - Leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, thrombocytopenic purpura, agranulocytosis.

Gastrointestinal - Dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, jaundice.

Respiratory-Asthma, nasal stuffiness, respiratory depression (potentially fatal) and apnea (potentially fatal). (See WARNINGS-Promethazine; Respiratory Depression.)

Other-Angioneurotic edema. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (potentially fatal) has also been reported. (See WARNINGS-Promethazine; Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.)

Paradoxical Reactions - Hyperexcitability and abnormal movements have been reported in patients following a single administration of promethazine HCl. Consideration should be given to the discontinuation of promethazine HCl and to the use of other drugs if these reactions occur. Respiratory depression, nightmares, delirium, and agitated behavior have also been reported in some of these patients.


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Dosing Adult

Cough and upper respiratory symptoms: Oral: 5 mL every 4 to 6 hours; maximum: 30 mL in 24 hours

Dietary Considerations

Increase dietary intake of riboflavin.


Concerns related to adverse effects:

• Altered cardiac conduction: May alter cardiac conduction (life-threatening arrhythmias have occurred with therapeutic doses of phenothiazines).

• Anticholinergic effects: Phenothiazines may cause anticholinergic effects (constipation, xerostomia, blurred vision, urinary retention); therefore, they should be used with caution in patients with decreased gastrointestinal motility, urinary retention, BPH, xerostomia, or visual problems.

• Extrapyramidal symptoms: May cause extrapyramidal symptoms, including pseudoparkinsonism, acute dystonic reactions, akathisia, and tardive dyskinesia.

• Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS): Use may be associated with NMS; monitor for mental status changes, fever, muscle rigidity and/or autonomic instability.

• Orthostatic hypotension: May cause orthostatic hypotension; use with caution in patients at risk of this effect or in those who would not tolerate transient hypotensive episodes (cerebrovascular disease, cardiovascular disease, hypovolemia, or concurrent medication use which may predispose to hypotension/bradycardia).

• Sedation: May be sedating, use with caution in disorders where CNS depression is a feature; patients must be cautioned about performing tasks which require mental alertness (eg, operating machinery or driving).

• Temperature regulation: Impaired core body temperature regulation may occur; caution with strenuous exercise, heat exposure, dehydration, and concomitant medication possessing anticholinergic effects.

Disease-related concerns:

• Bone marrow suppression: Use with caution in patients with bone marrow suppression; leukopenia and agranulocytosis have been reported.

• Cardiovascular disease: Use with caution in patients with severe cardiovascular disease.

• Glaucoma: Use with caution in patients with narrow-angle glaucoma; condition may be exacerbated by cholinergic blockade. Screening is recommended.

• Hepatic impairment: Use with caution in patients with hepatic impairment; cholestatic jaundice has been reported with promethazine use. Avoid use in pediatric patients with signs and symptoms of hepatic disease (extrapyramidal symptoms caused by promethazine may be confused with CNS signs of hepatic disease).

• Myasthenia gravis: Use with caution in patients with myasthenia gravis; condition may be exacerbated by cholinergic blockade.

• Parkinson disease: Use with caution in patients with Parkinson disease; may have increased risk of tardive dyskinesia.

• Respiratory disease: Use with caution in patients with severe respiratory disease (asthma, COPD, sleep apnea); may lead to potentially fatal respiratory depression.

• Seizures: Use with caution in patients at risk of seizures, including those with a history of seizures, head trauma, brain damage, alcoholism, or concurrent therapy with medications which may lower seizure threshold.

Concurrent drug therapy issues:

• Antiemetic effects: May mask toxicity of other drugs or conditions (eg, intestinal obstruction, Reye's syndrome, brain tumor) due to antiemetic effects.

• Sedatives: Effects may be potentiated when used with other sedative drugs or ethanol.

Special populations:

• CYP2D6 poor metabolizers: Dextromethorphan is metabolized by hepatic CYP2D6. Poor metabolizers of CYP2D6 may have exaggerated or prolonged effects of dextromethorphan. Increased risk may be seen with concomitant use of potent CYP2D6 inhibitors; use with caution (Abduljalil 2010; Jurica 2012; Sager 2014; Zhou 2009).

• Pediatric: [U.S. Boxed Warning]: Safety and efficacy of this combination have not been established in children <2 years of age (use of promethazine is contraindicated). In children ≥2 years, use the lowest possible dose; other drugs with respiratory depressant effects should be avoided. Avoid use in children who may have Reye syndrome or hepatic disease as adverse reactions caused by promethazine may be confused with signs of primary disease.