Severe hepatocellular injury, confirmed by rechallenge in at least one case, occurs rarely with labetalol therapy. The hepatic injury is usually reversible, but hepatic necrosis and death have been reported. Injury has occurred after both short- and long-term treatment and may be slowly progressive despite minimal symptomatology. Similar hepatic events have been reported with a related compound, dilevalol, including two deaths. Dilevalol is one of the four isomers of labetalol. Thus, for patients taking labetalol, periodic determination of suitable hepatic laboratory tests would be appropriate. Laboratory testing should also be done at the very first symptom or sign of liver dysfunction (e.g., pruritus, dark urine, persistent anorexia, jaundice, right upper quadrant tenderness, or unexplained "flu-like" symptoms). If the patient has jaundice or laboratory evidence of liver injury, labetalol should be stopped and not restarted.
Sympathetic stimulation is a vital component supporting circulatory function in congestive heart failure. Beta blockade carries a potential hazard of further depressing myocardial contractility and precipitating more severe failure. Although beta-blockers should be avoided in overt congestive heart failure, if necessary, labetalol can be used with caution in patients with a history of heart failure who are well-compensated. Congestive heart failure has been observed in patients receiving labetalol. Labetalol does not abolish the inotropic action of digitalis on heart muscle.
In Patients Without a History of Cardiac Failure
In patients with latent cardiac insufficiency, continued depression of the myocardium with beta-blocking agents over a period of time can, in some cases, lead to cardiac failure. At the first sign or symptom of impending cardiac failure, patients should be fully digitalized and/or be given a diuretic, and the response observed closely. If cardiac failure continues, despite adequate digitalization and diuretic, labetalol therapy should be withdrawn (gradually if possible).
Exacerbation of Ischemic Heart Disease Following Abrupt Withdrawal
Angina pectoris has not been reported upon labetalol discontinuation. However, hypersensitivity to catecholamines has been observed in patients withdrawn from beta-blocker therapy; exacerbation of angina and, in some cases, myocardial infarction have occurred after abrupt discontinuation of such therapy. When discontinuing chronically administered labetalol, particularly in patients with ischemic heart disease, the dosage should be gradually reduced over a period of 1 to 2 weeks and the patient should be carefully monitored. If angina markedly worsens or acute coronary insufficiency develops, labetalol administration should be reinstituted promptly, at least temporarily, and other measures appropriate for the management of unstable angina should be taken. Patients should be warned against interruption or discontinuation of therapy without the physician's advice. Because coronary artery disease is common and may be unrecognized, it may be prudent not to discontinue labetalol therapy abruptly even in patients treated only for hypertension.
Nonallergic bronchospasm (e.g., chronic bronchitis and emphysema) patients with bronchospastic disease should, in general, not receive beta-blockers. Labetalol may be used with caution, however, in patients who do not respond to, or cannot tolerate, other antihypertensive agents. It is prudent, if labetalol is used, to use the smallest effective dose, so that inhibition of endogenous or exogenous beta-agonists is minimized.
Labetalol has been shown to be effective in lowering the blood pressure and relieving symptoms in patients with pheochromocytoma. However, paradoxical hypertensive responses have been reported in a few patients with this tumor; therefore, use caution when administering labetalol to patients with pheochromocytoma.
Diabetes Mellitus and Hypoglycemia
Beta-adrenergic blockade may prevent the appearance of premonitory signs and symptoms (e.g., tachycardia) of acute hypoglycemia. This is especially important with labile diabetics. Beta-blockade also reduces the release of insulin in response to hyperglycemia; it may therefore be necessary to adjust the dose of antidiabetic drugs.
The necessity or desirability of withdrawing beta-blocking therapy prior to major surgery is controversial. Protracted severe hypotension and difficulty in restarting or maintaining a heartbeat have been reported with beta-blockers. The effect of labetalol's alpha-adrenergic activity has not been evaluated in this setting.
A synergism between labetalol and halothane anesthesia has been shown (see PRECAUTIONS-Drug Interactions).
Impaired Hepatic Function
Labetalol should be used with caution in patients with impaired hepatic function since metabolism of the drug may be diminished.
Jaundice or Hepatic Dysfunction
Information for Patients
As with all drugs with beta-blocking activity, certain advice to patients being treated with labetalol is warranted. This information is intended to aid in the safe and effective use of this medication. It is not a disclosure of all possible adverse or intended effects. While no incident of the abrupt withdrawal phenomenon (exacerbation of angina pectoris) has been reported with labetalol, dosing with labetalol tablets should not be interrupted or discontinued without a physician's advice. Patients being treated with labetalol tablets should consult a physician at any signs or symptoms of impending cardiac failure or hepatic dysfunction (see WARNINGS). Also, transient scalp tingling may occur, usually when treatment with labetalol tablets is initiated (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).
As with any new drug given over prolonged periods, laboratory parameters should be observed over regular intervals. In patients with concomitant illnesses, such as impaired renal function, appropriate tests should be done to monitor these conditions.
In one survey, 2.3% of patients taking labetalol in combination with tricyclic antidepressants experienced tremor as compared to 0.7% reported to occur with labetalol alone. The contribution of each of the treatments to this adverse reaction is unknown but the possibility of a drug interaction cannot be excluded.
Drugs possessing beta-blocking properties can blunt the bronchodilator effect of beta-receptor agonist drugs in patients with bronchospasm; therefore, doses greater than the normal anti-asthmatic dose of beta-agonist bronchodilator drugs may be required.
Cimetidine has been shown to increase the bioavailability of labetalol. Since this could be explained either by enhanced absorption or by an alteration of hepatic metabolism of labetalol, special care should be used in establishing the dose required for blood pressure control in such patients.
Synergism has been shown between halothane anesthesia and intravenously administered labetalol. During controlled hypotensive anesthesia using labetalol in association with halothane, high concentrations (3% or above) of halothane should not be used because the degree of hypotension will be increased and because of the possibility of a large reduction in cardiac output and an increase in central venous pressure. The anesthesiologist should be informed when a patient is receiving labetalol.
Labetalol blunts the reflex tachycardia produced by nitroglycerin without preventing its hypotensive effect. If labetalol is used with nitroglycerin in patients with angina pectoris, additional antihypertensive effects may occur.
Care should be taken if labetalol is used concomitantly with calcium channel antagonists of the verapamil type.
Risk of Anaphylactic Reaction
While taking beta-blockers, patients with a history of severe anaphylactic reaction to a variety of allergens may be more reactive to repeated challenge, either accidental, diagnostic, or therapeutic. Such patients may be unresponsive to the usual doses of epinephrine used to treat allergic reaction.
Drug/Laboratory Test Interactions
The presence of labetalol metabolites in the urine may result in falsely elevated levels of urinary catecholamines, metanephrine, normetanephrine, and vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) when measured by fluorimetric or photometric methods. In screening patients suspected of having a pheochromocytoma and being treated with labetalol, a specific method, such as a high performance liquid chromatographic assay with solid phase extraction (e.g., J Chromatogr 385:241,1987) should be employed in determining levels of catecholamines.
Labetalol has also been reported to produce a false-positive test for amphetamine when screening urine for the presence of drugs using the commercially available assay methods Toxi-Lab A® (thin-layer chromatographic assay) and Emit-d.a.u.® (radioenzymatic assay). When patients being treated with labetalol have a positive urine test for amphetamine using these techniques, confirmation should be made by using more specific methods, such as a gas chromatographic-mass spectrometer technique.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Long-term oral dosing studies with labetalol for 18 months in mice and for 2 years in rats showed no evidence of carcinogenesis. Studies with labetalol, using dominant lethal assays in rats and mice, and exposing microorganisms according to modified Ames tests, showed no evidence of mutagenesis.
Pregnancy Category C
Teratogenic studies have been performed with labetalol in rats and rabbits at oral doses up to approximately 6 and 4 times the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD), respectively. No reproducible evidence of fetal malformations was observed. Increased fetal resorptions were seen in both species at doses approximating the MRHD. A teratology study performed with labetalol in rabbits at intravenous doses up to 1.7 times the MRHD revealed no evidence of drug-related harm to the fetus. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Labetalol should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Hypotension, bradycardia, hypoglycemia, and respiratory depression have been reported in infants of mothers who were treated with labetalol for hypertension during pregnancy. Oral administration of labetalol to rats during late gestation through weaning at doses of 2 to 4 times the MRHD caused a decrease in neonatal survival.
Labor and Delivery
Labetalol given to pregnant women with hypertension did not appear to affect the usual course of labor and delivery.
Small amounts of labetalol (approximately 0.004% of the maternal dose) are excreted in human milk. Caution should be exercised when labetalol tablets are administered to a nursing woman.
Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.
As in the general population, some elderly patients (60 years of age and older) have experienced orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, or lightheadedness during treatment with labetalol. Because elderly patients are generally more likely than younger patients to experience orthostatic symptoms, they should be cautioned about the possibility of such effects during treatment with labetalol.