5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
5.1 Risks From Concomitant Use With Opioids
Concomitant use of benzodiazepines, including Halcion, and opioids may result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Because of these risks, reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate.
Observational studies have demonstrated that concomitant use of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines increases the risk of drug-related mortality compared to use of opioids alone. If a decision is made to prescribe Halcion concomitantly with opioids, prescribe the lowest effective dosages and minimum durations of concomitant use, and follow patients closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory depression and sedation. In patients already receiving an opioid analgesic, prescribe a lower initial dose of Halcion than indicated in the absence of an opioid and titrate based on clinical response. If an opioid is initiated in a patient already taking Halcion, prescribe a lower initial dose of the opioid and titrate based upon clinical response.
Advise both patients and caregivers about the risks of respiratory depression and sedation when Halcion is used with opioids. Advise patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until the effects of concomitant use with the opioid have been determined [see Drug Interactions (7.1)].
5.2 Abuse, Misuse, and Addiction
The use of benzodiazepines, including Halcion, exposes users to the risks of abuse, misuse, and addiction, which can lead to overdose or death. Abuse and misuse of benzodiazepines often (but not always) involve the use of doses greater than the maximum recommended dosage and commonly involve concomitant use of other medications, alcohol, and/or illicit substances, which is associated with an increased frequency of serious adverse outcomes, including respiratory depression, overdose, or death [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.2)].
Before prescribing Halcion and throughout treatment, assess each patient's risk for abuse, misuse, and addiction (e.g., using a standardized screening tool). Use of Halcion, particularly in patients at elevated risk, necessitates counseling about the risks and proper use of Halcion along with monitoring for signs and symptoms of abuse, misuse, and addiction. Prescribe the lowest effective dosage; avoid or minimize concomitant use of CNS depressants and other substances associated with abuse, misuse, and addiction (e.g., opioid analgesics, stimulants); and advise patients on the proper disposal of unused drug. If a substance use disorder is suspected, evaluate the patient and institute (or refer them for) early treatment, as appropriate.
5.3 Dependence and Withdrawal Reactions
To reduce the risk of withdrawal reactions, use a gradual taper to discontinue Halcion or reduce the dosage (a patient-specific plan should be used to taper the dose) [see Dosage and Administration (2.3)].
Patients at an increased risk of withdrawal adverse reactions after benzodiazepine discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction include those who take higher dosages, and those who have had longer durations of use.
Acute Withdrawal Reactions
The continued use of benzodiazepines, including Halcion, may lead to clinically significant physical dependence. Abrupt discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction of Halcion after continued use, or administration of flumazenil (a benzodiazepine antagonist) may precipitate acute withdrawal reactions, which can be life-threatening (e.g., seizures) [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)].
Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome
In some cases, benzodiazepine users have developed a protracted withdrawal syndrome with withdrawal symptoms lasting weeks to more than 12 months [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)].
5.4 Persistent or Worsening Insomnia
Since sleep disturbances may be the presenting manifestation of a physical and/or psychiatric disorder, symptomatic treatment of insomnia should be initiated only after a careful evaluation of the patient. The failure of insomnia to remit after 7 to 10 days of treatment may indicate the presence of a primary psychiatric and/or medical illness that should be evaluated. Worsening of insomnia or the emergence of new thinking or behavior abnormalities may be the consequence of an unrecognized psychiatric or physical disorder. Such findings have emerged during the course of treatment with sedative-hypnotic drugs.
5.5 "Sleep-driving" and Other Complex Behaviors
Complex behaviors such as "sleep-driving" (i.e., driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic, with amnesia for the event) have been reported with Halcion use. These events can occur in sedative-hypnotic-naïve as well as in sedative-hypnotic-experienced persons. Although behaviors such as sleep-driving may occur with sedative-hypnotics alone at recommended dosages, the use of alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants with sedative-hypnotics appears to increase the risk of such behaviors, as does the use of sedative-hypnotics at doses exceeding the maximum recommended dose. Due to the risk to the patient and the community, discontinuation of sedative-hypnotics should be strongly considered for patients who report a "sleep-driving" episode.
Other complex behaviors (e.g., preparing and eating food, making phone calls, or having sex) have been reported in patients who are not fully awake after taking a sedative-hypnotic, including Halcion. As with sleep-driving, patients usually do not remember these events.
5.6 Central Nervous System Manifestations
An increase in daytime anxiety has been reported for Halcion after as few as 10 days of continuous use. In some patients this may be a manifestation of interdose withdrawal. If increased daytime anxiety is observed during treatment, discontinuation of treatment may be advisable.
A variety of abnormal thinking and behavior changes have been reported to occur in association with the use of benzodiazepine hypnotics including Halcion. Some of these changes may be characterized by decreased inhibition, e.g., aggressiveness and extroversion that seem excessive, similar to that seen with alcohol and other CNS depressants (e.g., sedative/hypnotics). Other kinds of behavioral changes have also been reported, for example, bizarre behavior, agitation, hallucinations, depersonalization. In primarily depressed patients, the worsening of depression, including suicidal thinking, has been reported in association with the use of benzodiazepines [see Warnings and Precautions (5.9)].
Some adverse reactions reported in association with the use of Halcion such as drowsiness, dizziness, light-headedness, and amnesia appear to be dose related. More serious behavioral phenomena such as confusion, bizarre or abnormal behavior, agitation, and hallucinations may also be dose related, but this evidence is inconclusive. Therapy should be initiated at the lowest effective dose [see Dosage and Administration (2.1)].
It can rarely be determined with certainty whether a particular instance of the abnormal behaviors listed above is drug induced, spontaneous in origin, or a result of an underlying psychiatric or physical disorder. Nonetheless, the emergence of any new behavioral sign or symptom of concern requires careful and immediate evaluation.
Anterograde amnesia of varying severity and paradoxical reactions have been reported following recommended dosages of Halcion. Data from several sources suggest that anterograde amnesia may occur at a higher rate with Halcion than with other benzodiazepine hypnotics. Because HALCION can cause drowsiness and a decreased level of consciousness, patients, particularly the elderly, are at higher risk of falls.
Cases of "traveler's amnesia" have been reported by individuals who have taken Halcion to induce sleep while traveling, such as during an airplane flight. In some of these cases, insufficient time was allowed for the sleep period prior to awakening and before beginning activity. Also, the concomitant use of alcohol may have been a factor in some cases.
5.7 Effects on Driving and Operating Heavy Machinery
Due to its depressant CNS effects, patients receiving Halcion should be cautioned against engaging in hazardous occupations requiring complete mental alertness such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle. For the same reason, patients should be cautioned about the concomitant use of alcohol and other CNS depressant drugs during treatment with Halcion.
5.8 Triazolam Interaction With Drugs That Inhibit Metabolism via Cytochrome P450 3A
The initial step in triazolam metabolism is hydroxylation catalyzed by CYP 3A. Drugs that inhibit this metabolic pathway may have a profound effect on the clearance of triazolam.
Strong CYP 3A Inhibitors
Halcion is contraindicated in patients receiving strong inhibitors of CYP 3A such as ketoconazole, itraconazole, nefazodone, ritonavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, saquinavir, and lopinavir [see Contraindications (4), Drug Interactions (7.1)].
Moderate and Weak CYP 3A Inhibitors
Halcion should be used with caution in patients receiving moderate or weak inhibitors of CYP 3A. If coadministered, consider dose reduction of Halcion.
Coadministration of erythromycin increased the maximum plasma concentration, decreased clearance and increased half-life of triazolam [see Drug Interactions (7.1), Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)]; caution and consideration of appropriate triazolam dose reduction are recommended. Similar caution should be observed during coadministration with clarithromycin and other macrolide antibiotics.
Coadministration of cimetidine increased the maximum plasma concentration, decreased clearance and increased half-life of triazolam [see Drug Interactions (7.1), Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)]; caution and consideration of appropriate triazolam dose reduction are recommended.
5.9 Patients With Depression
Benzodiazepines may worsen depression. Consequently, appropriate precautions (e.g., limiting the total prescription size and increased monitoring for suicidal ideation) should be considered in patients with depression.
5.10 Neonatal Sedation and Withdrawal Syndrome
Use of Halcion late in pregnancy can result in sedation (respiratory depression, lethargy, hypotonia) and/or withdrawal symptoms (hyperreflexia, irritability, restlessness, tremors, inconsolable crying, and feeding difficulties) in the neonate [see Use in Specific Populations (8.1)]. Monitor neonates exposed to HALCION during pregnancy or labor for signs of sedation and monitor neonates exposed to HALCION during pregnancy for signs of withdrawal; manage these neonates accordingly.