After proper administration of acetylcysteine, an increased volume of liquified bronchial secretions may occur. When cough is inadequate, the open airway must be maintained by mechanical suction if necessary. When there is a mechanical block due to foreign body or local accumulation, the airway should be cleared by endotracheal aspiration, with or without bronchoscopy. Asthmatics under treatment with acetylcysteine should be watched carefully. Most patients with bronchospasm are quickly relieved by the use of a bronchodilator given by nebulization. If bronchospasm progresses, this medication should be discontinued immediately.
Generalized urticaria has been observed rarely in patients receiving oral acetylcysteine for acetaminophen overdose. If this occurs or other allergic symptoms appear, treatment with acetylcysteine should be discontinued unless it is deemed essential and the allergic symptoms can be otherwise controlled.
If encephalopathy due to hepatic failure becomes evident, acetylcysteine treatment should be discontinued to avoid further administration of nitrogenous substances. There are no data indicating that acetylcysteine adversely influences hepatic failure, but this remains a theoretical possibility.
With the administration of acetylcysteine, the patient may initially notice a slight disagreeable odor that is soon noticeable. With a face mask there may be a stickiness on the face after nebulization. This is easily removed by washing with water.
Under certain conditions, a color change may occur in the solution of acetylcysteine in the opened bottle. The light purple color is the result of a chemical reaction which does not significantly affect the safety or mucolytic effectiveness of acetylcysteine.
Continued nebulization of an acetylcysteine solution with a dry gas will result in an increased concentration of the drug in the nebulizer because of evaporation of the solvent. Extreme concentration may impede nebulization and efficient delivery of the drug. Dilution of the nebulizing solution with appropriate amounts of Sterile Water for Injection, as a concentration occurs, will obviate this problem.
Drug stability and safety of acetylcysteine when mixed with other drugs in a nebulizer have not been established.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Carcinogenicity studies in laboratory animals have not been performed with acetylcysteine alone, nor with acetylcysteine in combination with isoproterenol.
Long-term oral studies of acetylcysteine alone in rats (12 months of treatment followed by 6 months of observation) at doses up to 1,000 mg/kg/day (5.2 times the human mucolytic dose) provided no evidence of oncogenic activity.
Published data1 indicate that acetylcysteine is not mutagenic in the Ames test, both with and without metabolic activation.
Impairment of Fertility
A reproductive toxicity test to assess potential impairment of fertility was performed with acetylcysteine (10%) combined with isoproterenol (0.05%) and administered as an aerosol into a chamber of 12.43 cubic meters. The combination was administered for 25, 30, or 35 minutes twice a day for 68 days before mating, to 200 male and 150 female rats; no adverse effects were noted in dams or pups. Females after mating were continued on treatment for the next 42 days.
Reproductive toxicity studies of acetylcysteine in the rat given oral doses of acetylcysteine up to 1,000 mg/kg (5.2 times the human mucolytic dose) have also been reported in the literature1. The only adverse effect observed was a slight non-dose-related reduction in fertility at dose levels of 500 or 1,000 mg/kg/day (2.6 or 5.2 times the human dose) in the Segment 1 study.
Pregnancy: Teratogenic Effects
In a teratology study of acetylcysteine in the rabbit, oral doses of 500 mg/kg/day (2.6 times the human mucolytic dose) were administered to pregnant does by intubation on days 6 through 16 of gestation. Acetylcysteine was found to be nonteratogenic under the conditions of study.
In the rabbit, two groups (one of 14 and one of 16 pregnant females) were exposed to an aerosol of 10% acetylcysteine and 0.05% isoproterenol hydrochloride for 30 or 35 minutes twice a day from the 6th through the 18th day of pregnancy. No teratogenic effects were observed among the offspring.
Teratology and a perinatal and postnatal toxicity study in rats were performed with a combination of acetylcysteine and isoproterenol administered by the inhalation route. In the rat, two groups of 25 pregnant females each were exposed to the aerosol for 30 and 35 minutes, respectively, twice a day from the 6th through the 15th day of gestation. No teratogenic effects were observed among the offspring.
In the pregnant rat (30 rats per group), twice-daily exposure to an aerosol of acetylcysteine and isoproterenol for 30 or 35 minutes from the 15th day of gestation through the 21st day postpartum was without adverse effect on dams or newborns.
Reproduction studies of acetylcysteine with isoproterenol have been performed in rats and of acetylcysteine alone in rabbits at doses up to 2.6 times the human dose. These have revealed no evidence of impaired fertility or harm to the fetus due to acetylcysteine. There are, however, no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies may not always be predictive of human responses, this drug should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed.
Occasionally severe and persistent vomiting occurs as a symptom of acute acetaminophen overdose. Treatment with oral acetylcysteine may aggravate the vomiting. Patients at risk of gastric hemorrhage (e.g., esophageal varices, peptic ulcers, etc.) should be evaluated concerning the risk of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage versus the risk of developing hepatic toxicity, and treatment with acetylcysteine given accordingly.
Dilution of the acetylcysteine (SEE PREPARATION OF ACETYLCYSTEINE FOR ORAL ADMINISTRATION) minimizes the propensity of oral acetylcysteine to aggravate vomiting.