Phenobarbital Availability

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Selected strengths of phenobarbital are currently experiencing availability issues in pharmacies. The availability issues are related to manufacturing discontinuations, and the affected strengths are not available through distributors. Here is what you need to know:

What is phenobarbital?
Phenobarbital, part of the barbiturates class, is used in the treatment of seizures and as a sedative. Phenobarbital has been used for many years, but its popularity has decreased substantially due to adverse effects, drug interactions, and the potential for addiction. It is a scheduled drug, and carries a risk of abuse. It is still sometimes used in the treatment of seizures, but generally only after other options have failed. It does remain a popular veterinary medicine for seizures.

Which strengths are affected?

The 15 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg, and 100 mg tablets of phenobarbital are not currently available from the generic manufacturer, West-ward, or distributors. Other strengths are still available, including the 16.2 mg, 32.4 mg, 64.8 mg, and 97.2 mg tablets. The phenobarbital oral liquid is also still available.

What are your options?

If you or your pet are currently taking one of the unavailable strengths, you have some options. If you can find a pharmacy with your prescribed strength in stock, it is still good to use. The difficulty may only be with placing new orders.

If your pharmacy has no stock available, you can ask your pharmacist to get in touch with your health care provider or schedule an appointment to discuss your options. If a change to your dosage is needed, a new prescription will be required. This can be done with little risk for veterinary use. For human use, drug levels may need to be checked and other considerations may need to be made when changing strengths.

Alternatively, if you are using phenobarbital for seizure control, you may also want talk to your health care provider about switching to other medications or trying other treatment strategies, as phenobarbital does carry some long-term risks and newer and safer seizure therapies are available.

Talk to your pharmacist or health care provider if you have any questions.

Till next week,

The GoodRx Pharmacist

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