Summary of Torsades de Pointes (TdP) Reports Associated with Intravenous Drug Formulations Containing the Preservative Chlorobutanol

R David Woosley, Klaus Romero, Craig W Heise, Tyler Gallo, Jared Tate, Raymond L Woosley
Drug Safety: An International Journal of Medical Toxicology and Drug Experience 2019, 42 (7): 907-913

INTRODUCTION: Drug-induced torsades de pointes (TdP) is a potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmia that is associated with drugs that prolong the QT interval on the electrocardiogram (ECG) due to their interference with the cardiac potassium current, IKR . Intravenous (IV) formulations of methadone have been associated with TdP and contain the preservative chlorobutanol, which, like methadone, blocks IKR . The combinations of chlorobutanol with methadone or terfenadine, another IKR blocker, produce synergistic IKR block.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine and summarize the evidence available to address the question: what other IV drug formulations contain chlorobutanol and are they associated with TdP?

METHODS: IV drug products containing the preservative chlorobutanol were identified by searching the websites DailyMed ( ) and Drugs@FDA ( ). For each drug identified, PubMed and the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) were searched for reports of TdP and/or QT prolongation and FAERS data were analyzed for disproportionality of reports.

RESULTS: The search found nine drugs (methadone, epinephrine, papaverine, oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, estradiol, isoniazid, and desmopressin) that contain chlorobutanol 2.5 (n = 1) or 5.0 mg/mL. All nine drugs had reports of QT prolongation or TdP reported in FAERS and all but estradiol, testosterone, desmopressin, and isoniazid had reports of QT prolongation or TdP in PubMed. Two of the nine drugs (epinephrine and methadone) had positive signals (by disproportionality analysis) for TdP in FAERS (EB05 2.88 and 23.81, respectively) and four (methadone, epinephrine, papaverine, and vasopressin) were reported in published articles as the suspect drugs in cases of TdP.

CONCLUSION: The pharmacologic profile of chlorobutanol (synergistic IKR block) and its association with reports of TdP and QT prolongation suggest the need for a full evaluation of its cardiac safety when used as a preservative in IV drug and vitamin formulations.

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