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morphine sulfate injection, USP VIAL Use in Specific Populations


8.1 Pregnancy

Risk Summary

Prolonged use of opioid analgesics during pregnancy can cause neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome [see Warnings and Precautions (5.4)]. There are no available data with preservative-free morphine sulfate injection in pregnant women to inform a drug-associated risk for major birth defects and miscarriage. Published studies with morphine use during pregnancy have not reported a clear association with morphine and major birth defects [see Human Data]. In published animal reproduction studies, morphine administered subcutaneously during the early gestational period produced neural tube defects (i.e., exencephaly and cranioschisis) at 5 and 16 times the human daily dose of 60 mg based on body surface area (HDD) in hamsters and mice, respectively, lower fetal body weight and increased incidence of abortion at 0.4 times the HDD in the rabbit, growth retardation at 6 times the HDD in the rat, and axial skeletal fusion and cryptorchidism at 16 times the HDD in the mouse. Administration of morphine sulfate to pregnant rats during organogenesis and through lactation resulted in cyanosis, hypothermia, decreased brain weights, pup mortality, decreased pup body weights, and adverse effects on reproductive tissues at 3–4 times the HDD; and long-term neurochemical changes in the brain of offspring which correlate with altered behavioral responses that persist through adulthood at exposures comparable to and less than the HDD [see Animal Data]. Based on animal data, advise pregnant women of the potential risk to a fetus.

The estimated background risk of 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 clinically recognized pregnancies is 2–4% and 15–20%, respectively.

Clinical Considerations

Fetal/Neonatal Adverse Reactions

Prolonged use of opioid analgesics during pregnancy for medical or nonmedical purposes can result in physical dependence in the neonate and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome shortly after birth.

Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome presents as irritability, hyperactivity and abnormal sleep pattern, high pitched cry, tremor, vomiting, diarrhea, and failure to gain weight. The onset, duration, and severity of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome vary based on the specific opioid used, duration of use, timing and amount of last maternal use, and rate of elimination of the drug by the newborn. Observe newborns for symptoms of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome and manage accordingly [see Warnings and Precautions (5.4)].

Labor or Delivery

Opioids cross the placenta and may produce respiratory depression and psycho-physiologic effects in neonates. An opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, must be available for reversal of opioid induced respiratory depression in the neonate. Preservative-free morphine sulfate injection is not recommended for use in women during and immediately prior to labor, when use of shorter-acting analgesics or other analgesic techniques are more appropriate. Opioid analgesics, including preservative-free morphine sulfate injection, can prolong labor through actions that temporarily reduce the strength, duration, and frequency of uterine contractions. However, this effect is not consistent and may be offset by an increased rate of cervical dilatation, which tends to shorten labor. Monitor neonates exposed to opioid analgesics during labor for signs of excess sedation and respiratory depression.


Human Data

The results from a population-based prospective cohort, including 70 women exposed to morphine during the first trimester of pregnancy and 448 women exposed to morphine at any time during pregnancy, indicate no increased risk for congenital malformations. However, these studies cannot definitely establish the absence of any risk because of methodological limitations, including small sample size and non-randomized study design.

Animal Data

Formal reproductive and developmental toxicology studies for morphine have not been conducted. Exposure margins for the following published study reports are based on human daily dose of 60 mg morphine using a body surface area comparison (HDD).

Neural tube defects (exencephaly and cranioschisis) were noted following subcutaneous administration of morphine sulfate (35–322 mg/kg) on Gestation Day 8 to pregnant hamsters (4.7 to 43.5 times the HDD). A no adverse effect level was not defined in this study and the findings cannot be clearly attributed to maternal toxicity. Neural tube defects (exencephaly), axial skeletal fusions, and cryptorchidism were reported following a single subcutaneous (SC) injection of morphine sulfate to pregnant mice (100–500 mg/kg) on Gestation Day 8 or 9 at 200 mg/kg or greater (16 times the HDD) and fetal resorption at 400 mg/kg or higher (32 times the HDD). No adverse effects were noted following 100 mg/kg morphine in this model (8 times the HDD). In one study, following continuous subcutaneous infusion of doses greater than or equal to 2.72 mg/kg to mice (0.2 times the HDD), exencephaly, hydronephrosis, intestinal hemorrhage, split supraoccipital, malformed sternebrae, and malformed xiphoid were noted. The effects were reduced with increasing daily dose; possibly due to rapid induction of tolerance under these infusion conditions. The clinical significance of this report is not clear.

Decreased fetal weights were observed in pregnant rats treated with 20 mg/kg/day morphine sulfate (3.2 times the HDD) from Gestation Day 7 to 9. There was no evidence of malformations despite maternal toxicity (10% mortality). In a second rat study, decreased fetal weight and increased incidences of growth retardation were noted at 35 mg/kg/day (5.7 times the HDD) and there was a reduced number of fetuses at 70 mg/kg/day (11.4 times the HDD) when pregnant rats were treated with 10, 35, or 70 mg/kg/day morphine sulfate via continuous infusion from Gestation Day 5 to 20. There was no evidence of fetal malformations or maternal toxicity.

An increased incidence of abortion was noted in a study in which pregnant rabbits were treated with 2.5 (0.8 times the HDD) to 10 mg/kg morphine sulfate via subcutaneous injection from Gestation Day 6 to 10. In a second study, decreased fetal body weights were reported following treatment of pregnant rabbits with increasing doses of morphine (10–50 mg/kg/day) during the pre-mating period and 50 mg/kg/day (16 times the HDD) throughout the gestation period. No overt malformations were reported in either publication; although only limited endpoints were evaluated.

In published studies in rats, exposure to morphine during gestation and/or lactation periods is associated with: decreased pup viability at 12.5 mg/kg/day or greater (2 times the HDD); decreased pup body weights at 15 mg/kg/day or greater (2.4 times the HDD); decreased litter size, decreased absolute brain and cerebellar weights, cyanosis, and hypothermia at 20 mg/kg/day (3.2 times the HDD); alteration of behavioral responses (play, social-interaction) at 1 mg/kg/day or greater (0.2 times the HDD); alteration of maternal behaviors (e.g., decreased nursing and pup retrievals) in mice at 1 mg/kg or higher (0.08 times the HDD) and rats at 1.5 mg/kg/day or higher (0.2 times the HDD); and a host of behavioral abnormalities in the offspring of rats, including altered responsiveness to opioids at 4 mg/kg/day (0.7 times the HDD) or greater.

Fetal and/or postnatal exposure to morphine in mice and rats has been shown to result in morphological changes in fetal and neonatal brain and neuronal cell loss, alteration of a number of neurotransmitter and neuromodulator systems, including opioid and non-opioid systems, and impairment in various learning and memory tests that appear to persist into adulthood. These studies were conducted with morphine treatment usually in the range of 4 to 20 mg/kg/day (0.7 to 3.2 times the HDD).

Additionally, delayed sexual maturation and decreased sexual behaviors in female offspring at 20 mg/kg/day (3.2 times the HDD), and decreased plasma and testicular levels of luteinizing hormone and testosterone, decreased testes weights, seminiferous tubule shrinkage, germinal cell aplasia, and decreased spermatogenesis in male offspring were also observed at 20 mg/kg/day (3.2 times the HDD). Decreased litter size and viability were observed in the offspring of male rats that were intraperitoneally administered morphine sulfate for 1 day prior to mating at 25 mg/kg/day (4.1 times the HDD) and mated to untreated females. Decreased viability and body weight and/or movement deficits in both first and second generation offspring were reported when male mice were treated for 5 days with escalating doses of 120 to 240 mg/kg/day morphine sulfate (9.7 to 19.5 times the HDD) or when female mice treated with escalating doses of 60 to 240 mg/kg/day (4.9 to 19.5 times the HDD) followed by a 5-day treatment-free recovery period prior to mating. Similar multigenerational findings were also seen in female rats pre-gestationally treated with escalating doses of 10 to 22 mg/kg/day morphine (1.6 to 3.6 times the HDD).

8.2 Lactation

Risk Summary

Morphine is present in breast milk. Published lactation studies report variable concentrations of morphine in breast milk with administration of immediate-release morphine to nursing mothers in the early postpartum period with a milk-to-plasma morphine AUC ratio of 2.5:1 measured in one lactation study. However, there is insufficient information to determine the effects of morphine on the breastfed infant and the effects of morphine on milk production. Lactation studies have not been conducted with preservative-free morphine sulfate injection, and no information is available on the effects of the drug on the breastfed infant or the effects of the drug on milk production.

The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother's clinical need for preservative-free morphine sulfate injection and any potential adverse effects on the breastfed infant from preservative-free morphine sulfate injection or from the underlying maternal condition.

Clinical Considerations

Monitor infants exposed to preservative-free morphine sulfate injection through breast milk for excess sedation and respiratory depression. Withdrawal symptoms can occur in breastfed infants when maternal administration of morphine is stopped, or when breastfeeding is stopped.

8.3 Females and Males of Reproductive Potential


Chronic use of opioids may cause reduced fertility in females and males of reproductive potential. It is not known whether these effects on fertility are reversible [see Adverse Reactions (6), Clinical Pharmacology (12.2)].

In published animal studies, morphine administration adversely effected fertility and reproductive endpoints in male rats and prolonged estrus cycle in female rats [see Nonclinical Toxicology (13)].

8.4 Pediatric Use

Adequate studies to establish the safety and effectiveness of spinal morphine in pediatric patients have not been performed, and usage in this population is not recommended.

8.5 Geriatric Use

Elderly patients (aged 65 years or older) may have increased sensitivity to preservative-free morphine sulfate injection. In general, use caution when selecting a dosage for an elderly patient, 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.

Respiratory depression is the chief risk for elderly patients treated with opioids, and has occurred after large initial doses were administered to patients who were not opioid-tolerant or when opioids were co-administered with other agents that depress respiration. Titrate the dosage of preservative-free morphine sulfate injection slowly in geriatric patients and monitor closely for signs of central nervous system and respiratory depression [see Warnings and Precautions (5.8)].

The pharmacodynamic effects of neuraxial morphine in the elderly are more variable than in the younger population. Patients will vary widely in the effective initial dose, rate of development of tolerance and the frequency and magnitude of associated adverse effects as the dose is increased. Initial doses should be based on careful clinical observation following "test doses", after making due allowances for the effects of the patient's age and infirmity on his/her ability to clear the drug, particularly in patients receiving epidural morphine.

Morphine is known to be substantially excreted by the kidney, and the risk of adverse reactions to this drug may be greater in patients with impaired renal function. Because elderly patients are more likely to have decreased renal function, care should be taken in dose selection, and it may be useful to monitor renal function.

8.6 Hepatic or Renal Impairment

The elimination half-life of morphine may be prolonged in patients with reduced metabolic rates and with hepatic and/or renal dysfunction. Hence, care should be exercised in administering preservative-free morphine sulfate injection epidurally to patients with these conditions. High blood morphine levels, due to reduced clearance, may take several days to develop.

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