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Medications: Ativan® – lorazepam

MEDICATIONS

Ativan® – lorazepam (View the FDA label)

Ativan (lorazepam) is indicated for the management of anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of the symptoms of anxiety or anxiety associated with depressive symptoms. Anxiety or tension associated with the stress of everyday life usually does not require treatment with an anxiolytic.

The effectiveness of Ativan (lorazepam) in long-term use, that is, more than 4 months, has not been assessed by systematic clinical studies. The physician should periodically reassess the usefulness of the drug for the individual patient.

Most adverse reactions to benzodiazepines, including CNS effects and respiratory depression, are dose dependent, with more severe effects occurring with high doses.

In a sample of about 3500 patients treated for anxiety, the most frequent adverse reaction to Ativan (lorazepam) was sedation (15.9%), followed by dizziness (6.9%), weakness (4.2%), and unsteadiness (3.4%). The incidence of sedation and unsteadiness increased with age.

Other adverse reactions to benzodiazepines, including lorazepam are fatigue, drowsiness, amnesia, memory impairment, confusion, disorientation, depression, unmasking of depression, disinhibition, euphoria, suicidal ideation/attempt, ataxia, asthenia, extrapyramidal symptoms, convulsions/seizures tremor, vertigo, eye-function/visual disturbance (including diplopia and blurred vision), dysarthria/slurred speech, change in libido, impotence, decreased orgasm; headache, coma; respiratory depression, apnea, worsening of sleep apnea, worsening of obstructive pulmonary disease; gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, change in appetite, constipation, jaundice, increase in bilirubin, increase in liver transaminases, increase in alkaline phosphatase; hypersensitivity reactions, anaphylactic/oid reactions; dermatological symptoms, allergic skin reactions, alopecia; SIADH, hyponatremia; thrombocytopenia, agranulocytosis, pancytopenia; hypothermia; and autonomic manifestations.

Paradoxical reactions, including anxiety, excitation, agitation, hostility, aggression, rage, sleep disturbances/insomnia, sexual arousal, and hallucinations may occur. Small decreases in blood pressure and hypotension may occur but are usually not clinically significant, probably being related to the relief of anxiety produced by Ativan (lorazepam).

In patients with depression, a possibility for suicide should be borne in mind; benzodiazepines should not be used in such patients without adequate anti- depressant therapy.

Lorazepam should be used with caution in patients with compromised respiratory function (e.g. COPD, sleep apnea syndrome). Elderly or debilitated patients may be more susceptible to the sedative effects of lorazepam. Therefore, these patients should be monitored frequently and have their dosage adjusted carefully according to patient response; the initial dosage should not exceed 2 mg.

Paradoxical reactions have been occasionally reported during benzodiazepine use. Such reactions may be more likely to occur in children and the elderly. Should these occur, use of the drug should be discontinued.

The usual precautions for treating patients with impaired renal and hepatic function should be observed. As with all benzodiazepines, the use of lorazepam may worsen hepatic encephalopathy; therefore, lorazepam should be used with caution in patients with severe hepatic insufficiency and/or encephalopathy.

Dosage for patients with severe hepatic insufficiency should be adjusted carefully according to patient response; lower doses may be sufficient in such patients.

In patients where gastrointestinal or cardiovascular disorders coexist with anxiety, it should be noted that lorazepam has not been shown to be of significant benefit in treating the gastrointestinal or cardiovascular component.

Esophageal dilation occurred in rats treated with lorazepam for more than one year at 6 mg/kg/day. The no-effect dose was 1.25 mg/kg/day (approximately 6 times the maximum human therapeutic dose of 10 mg per day). The effect was reversible only when the treatment was withdrawn within two months of first observation of the phenomenon. The clinical significance of this is unknown. However, use of lorazepam for prolonged periods and in geriatric patients requires caution, and there should be frequent monitoring for symptoms of upper G.I. disease.

The benzodiazepines, including Ativan (lorazepam), produce increased CNS- depressant effects when administered with other CNS depressants such as alcohol, barbiturates, antipsychotics, sedative/hypnotics, anxiolytics, antidepressants, narcotic analgesics, sedative antihistamines, anticonvulsants, and anesthetics.

Concomitant use of clozapine and lorazepam may produce marked sedation, excessive salivation, hypotension, ataxia, delirium, and respiratory arrest.

Concurrent administration of lorazepam with valproate results in increased plasma concentrations and reduced clearance of lorazepam. Lorazepam dosage should be reduced to approximately 50% when coadministered with valproate.

Concurrent administration of lorazepam with probenecid may result in a more rapid onset or prolonged effect of lorazepam due to increased half-life and decreased total clearance. Lorazepam dosage needs to be reduced by approximately 50% when coadministered with probenecid.

The effects of probenecid and valproate on lorazepam may be due to inhibition of glucuronidation.

Administration of theophylline or aminophylline may reduce the sedative effects of benzodiazepines, including lorazepam.

In postmarketing experience, overdose with lorazepam has occurred predominantly in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs. Therefore, in the management of overdosage , it should be borne in mind that multiple agents may have been taken.

Symptoms
Overdosage of benzodiazepines is usually manifested by varying degrees of central nervous system depression ranging from drowsiness to coma. In mild cases, symptoms include drowsiness, mental confusion, paradoxical reactions, dysarthria and lethargy. In more serious cases, and especially when other drugs or alcohol were ingested, symptoms may include ataxia, hypotonia, hypotension, cardiovascular depression, respiratory depression, hypnotic state, coma, and death.

Uses

Ativan (lorazepam) is indicated for the management of anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of the symptoms of anxiety or anxiety associated with depressive symptoms. Anxiety or tension associated with the stress of everyday life usually does not require treatment with an anxiolytic.

The effectiveness of Ativan (lorazepam) in long-term use, that is, more than 4 months, has not been assessed by systematic clinical studies. The physician should periodically reassess the usefulness of the drug for the individual patient.

Side Effects

Most adverse reactions to benzodiazepines, including CNS effects and respiratory depression, are dose dependent, with more severe effects occurring with high doses.

In a sample of about 3500 patients treated for anxiety, the most frequent adverse reaction to Ativan (lorazepam) was sedation (15.9%), followed by dizziness (6.9%), weakness (4.2%), and unsteadiness (3.4%). The incidence of sedation and unsteadiness increased with age.

Other adverse reactions to benzodiazepines, including lorazepam are fatigue, drowsiness, amnesia, memory impairment, confusion, disorientation, depression, unmasking of depression, disinhibition, euphoria, suicidal ideation/attempt, ataxia, asthenia, extrapyramidal symptoms, convulsions/seizures tremor, vertigo, eye-function/visual disturbance (including diplopia and blurred vision), dysarthria/slurred speech, change in libido, impotence, decreased orgasm; headache, coma; respiratory depression, apnea, worsening of sleep apnea, worsening of obstructive pulmonary disease; gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, change in appetite, constipation, jaundice, increase in bilirubin, increase in liver transaminases, increase in alkaline phosphatase; hypersensitivity reactions, anaphylactic/oid reactions; dermatological symptoms, allergic skin reactions, alopecia; SIADH, hyponatremia; thrombocytopenia, agranulocytosis, pancytopenia; hypothermia; and autonomic manifestations.

Paradoxical reactions, including anxiety, excitation, agitation, hostility, aggression, rage, sleep disturbances/insomnia, sexual arousal, and hallucinations may occur. Small decreases in blood pressure and hypotension may occur but are usually not clinically significant, probably being related to the relief of anxiety produced by Ativan (lorazepam).

Precautions

In patients with depression, a possibility for suicide should be borne in mind; benzodiazepines should not be used in such patients without adequate anti- depressant therapy.

Lorazepam should be used with caution in patients with compromised respiratory function (e.g. COPD, sleep apnea syndrome). Elderly or debilitated patients may be more susceptible to the sedative effects of lorazepam. Therefore, these patients should be monitored frequently and have their dosage adjusted carefully according to patient response; the initial dosage should not exceed 2 mg.

Paradoxical reactions have been occasionally reported during benzodiazepine use. Such reactions may be more likely to occur in children and the elderly. Should these occur, use of the drug should be discontinued.

The usual precautions for treating patients with impaired renal and hepatic function should be observed. As with all benzodiazepines, the use of lorazepam may worsen hepatic encephalopathy; therefore, lorazepam should be used with caution in patients with severe hepatic insufficiency and/or encephalopathy.

Dosage for patients with severe hepatic insufficiency should be adjusted carefully according to patient response; lower doses may be sufficient in such patients.

In patients where gastrointestinal or cardiovascular disorders coexist with anxiety, it should be noted that lorazepam has not been shown to be of significant benefit in treating the gastrointestinal or cardiovascular component.

Esophageal dilation occurred in rats treated with lorazepam for more than one year at 6 mg/kg/day. The no-effect dose was 1.25 mg/kg/day (approximately 6 times the maximum human therapeutic dose of 10 mg per day). The effect was reversible only when the treatment was withdrawn within two months of first observation of the phenomenon. The clinical significance of this is unknown. However, use of lorazepam for prolonged periods and in geriatric patients requires caution, and there should be frequent monitoring for symptoms of upper G.I. disease.

Interactions

The benzodiazepines, including Ativan (lorazepam), produce increased CNS- depressant effects when administered with other CNS depressants such as alcohol, barbiturates, antipsychotics, sedative/hypnotics, anxiolytics, antidepressants, narcotic analgesics, sedative antihistamines, anticonvulsants, and anesthetics.

Concomitant use of clozapine and lorazepam may produce marked sedation, excessive salivation, hypotension, ataxia, delirium, and respiratory arrest.

Concurrent administration of lorazepam with valproate results in increased plasma concentrations and reduced clearance of lorazepam. Lorazepam dosage should be reduced to approximately 50% when coadministered with valproate.

Concurrent administration of lorazepam with probenecid may result in a more rapid onset or prolonged effect of lorazepam due to increased half-life and decreased total clearance. Lorazepam dosage needs to be reduced by approximately 50% when coadministered with probenecid.

The effects of probenecid and valproate on lorazepam may be due to inhibition of glucuronidation.

Administration of theophylline or aminophylline may reduce the sedative effects of benzodiazepines, including lorazepam.

Overdose

In postmarketing experience, overdose with lorazepam has occurred predominantly in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs. Therefore, in the management of overdosage , it should be borne in mind that multiple agents may have been taken.

Symptoms
Overdosage of benzodiazepines is usually manifested by varying degrees of central nervous system depression ranging from drowsiness to coma. In mild cases, symptoms include drowsiness, mental confusion, paradoxical reactions, dysarthria and lethargy. In more serious cases, and especially when other drugs or alcohol were ingested, symptoms may include ataxia, hypotonia, hypotension, cardiovascular depression, respiratory depression, hypnotic state, coma, and death.

Interpreting the GeneSight® Test:
Gene-Drug Interaction Chart

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