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Saphris (Asenapine Maleate) - Warnings and Precautions



Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death. Analyses of 17 placebo-controlled trials (modal duration of 10 weeks), largely in patients taking atypical antipsychotic drugs, revealed a risk of death in the drug-treated patients of between 1.6 to 1.7 times that seen in placebo-treated patients. Over the course of a typical 10-week controlled trial, the rate of death in drug-treated patients was about 4.5%, compared to a rate of about 2.6% in the placebo group. Although the causes of death were varied, most of the deaths appeared to be either cardiovascular (e.g., heart failure, sudden death) or infectious (e.g., pneumonia) in nature. Observational studies suggest that, similar to atypical antipsychotic drugs, treatment with conventional antipsychotic drugs may increase mortality. The extent to which the findings of increased mortality in observational studies may be attributed to the antipsychotic drug as opposed to some characteristic(s) of the patients is not clear. SAPHRIS® (asenapine) is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis [see Warnings and Precautions].



Increased Mortality in Elderly Patients with Dementia-Related Psychosis

Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death. SAPHRIS is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis [see Boxed Warning ].

Cerebrovascular Adverse Events, Including Stroke, In Elderly Patients with Dementia-Related Psychosis

In placebo-controlled trials with risperidone, aripiprazole, and olanzapine in elderly subjects with dementia, there was a higher incidence of cerebrovascular adverse reactions (cerebrovascular accidents and transient ischemic attacks) including fatalities compared to placebo-treated subjects. SAPHRIS is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis [see also Boxed Warning and Warnings and Precautions].

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

A potentially fatal symptom complex sometimes referred to as Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) has been reported in association with administration of antipsychotic drugs, including SAPHRIS. Clinical manifestations of NMS are hyperpyrexia, muscle rigidity, altered mental status, and evidence of autonomic instability (irregular pulse or blood pressure, tachycardia, diaphoresis, and cardiac dysrhythmia). Additional signs may include elevated creatine phosphokinase, myoglobinuria (rhabdomyolysis), and acute renal failure.

The diagnostic evaluation of patients with this syndrome is complicated. It is important to exclude cases where the clinical presentation includes both serious medical illness (e.g. pneumonia, systemic infection) and untreated or inadequately treated extrapyramidal signs and symptoms (EPS). Other important considerations in the differential diagnosis include central anticholinergic toxicity, heat stroke, drug fever, and primary central nervous system pathology.

The management of NMS should include: 1) immediate discontinuation of antipsychotic drugs and other drugs not essential to concurrent therapy; 2) intensive symptomatic treatment and medical monitoring; and 3) treatment of any concomitant serious medical problems for which specific treatments are available. There is no general agreement about specific pharmacological treatment regimens for NMS.

If a patient requires antipsychotic drug treatment after recovery from NMS, the potential reintroduction of drug therapy should be carefully considered. The patient should be carefully monitored, since recurrences of NMS have been reported.

Tardive Dyskinesia

A syndrome of potentially irreversible, involuntary, dyskinetic movements can develop in patients treated with antipsychotic drugs. Although the prevalence of the syndrome appears to be highest among the elderly, especially elderly women, it is impossible to rely upon prevalence estimates to predict, at the inception of antipsychotic treatment, which patients are likely to develop the syndrome. Whether antipsychotic drug products differ in their potential to cause Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) is unknown.

The risk of developing TD and the likelihood that it will become irreversible are believed to increase as the duration of treatment and the total cumulative dose of antipsychotic drugs administered to the patient increase. However, the syndrome can develop, although much less commonly, after relatively brief treatment periods at low doses.

There is no known treatment for established cases of TD, although the syndrome may remit, partially or completely, if antipsychotic treatment is withdrawn. Antipsychotic treatment, itself, however, may suppress (or partially suppress) the signs and symptoms of the syndrome and thereby may possibly mask the underlying process. The effect that symptomatic suppression has upon the long-term course of the syndrome is unknown.

Given these considerations, SAPHRIS should be prescribed in a manner that is most likely to minimize the occurrence of TD. Chronic antipsychotic treatment should generally be reserved for patients who suffer from a chronic illness that is known to respond to antipsychotic drugs, and for whom alternative, equally effective, but potentially less harmful treatments are not available or appropriate. In patients who do require chronic treatment, the smallest dose and the shortest duration of treatment producing a satisfactory clinical response should be sought. The need for continued treatment should be reassessed periodically.

If signs and symptoms of TD appear in a patient on SAPHRIS, drug discontinuation should be considered. However, some patients may require treatment with SAPHRIS despite the presence of the syndrome.

Hyperglycemia and Diabetes Mellitus

Hyperglycemia, in some cases extreme and associated with ketoacidosis or hyperosmolar coma or death, has been reported in patients treated with atypical antipsychotics. Assessment of the relationship between atypical antipsychotic use and glucose abnormalities is complicated by the possibility of an increased background risk of diabetes mellitus in patients with schizophrenia and the increasing incidence of diabetes mellitus in the general population. Given these confounders, the relationship between atypical antipsychotic use and hyperglycemia-related adverse reactions is not completely understood. However, epidemiological studies suggest an increased risk of treatment-emergent hyperglycemia-related adverse events in patients treated with the atypical antipsychotics included in these studies. Because SAPHRIS was not marketed at the time these studies were performed, it is not known if SAPHRIS is associated with this increased risk. Precise risk estimates for hyperglycemia-related adverse events in patients treated with atypical antipsychotics are not available.

Patients with an established diagnosis of diabetes mellitus who are started on atypical antipsychotics should be monitored regularly for worsening of glucose control. Patients with risk factors for diabetes mellitus (e.g., obesity, family history of diabetes) who are starting treatment with atypical antipsychotics should undergo fasting blood glucose testing at the beginning of treatment and periodically during treatment. Any patient treated with atypical antipsychotics should be monitored for symptoms of hyperglycemia including polydipsia, polyuria, polyphagia, and weakness. Patients who develop symptoms of hyperglycemia during treatment with atypical antipsychotics should undergo fasting blood glucose testing. In some cases, hyperglycemia has resolved when the atypical antipsychotic was discontinued; however, some patients required continuation of anti-diabetic treatment despite discontinuation of the antipsychotic drug.

Weight Gain

Increases in weight have been observed in pre-marketing clinical trials with SAPHRIS. Patients receiving SAPHRIS should receive regular monitoring of weight [see Patient Counseling Information].

In short-term schizophrenia and bipolar mania trials, there were differences in mean weight gain between SAPHRIS-treated and placebo-treated patients. In short-term, placebo-controlled schizophrenia trials, the mean weight gain was 1.1 kg for SAPHRIS-treated patients compared to 0.1 kg for placebo-treated patients. The proportion of patients with a ≥7% increase in body weight (at Endpoint) was 4.9% for SAPHRIS-treated patients versus 2% for placebo-treated patients. In short-term, placebo-controlled bipolar mania trials, the mean weight gain for SAPHRIS-treated patients was 1.3 kg compared to 0.2 kg for placebo-treated patients. The proportion of patients with a ≥7% increase in body weight (at Endpoint) was 5.8% for SAPHRIS-treated patients versus 0.5% for placebo-treated patients.

In a 52-week, double-blind, comparator-controlled trial of patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, the mean weight gain from baseline was 0.9 kg. The proportion of patients with a ≥7% increase in body weight (at Endpoint) was 14.7%. Table 1 provides the mean weight change from baseline and the proportion of patients with a weight gain of ≥7% categorized by Body Mass Index (BMI) at baseline:

Table 1: Weight Change Results Categorized by BMI at Baseline: Comparator-Controlled 52-Week Study in Schizophrenia
BMI <23
BMI 23 - ≤27
BMI >27
Mean change from Baseline (kg) 1.7 1 0
% with ≥7% increase in body weight 22% 13% 9%

Hypersensitivity Reactions

Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis and angioedema, have been observed in patients treated with asenapine. In several cases, these reactions occurred after the first dose. These hypersensitivity reactions included: anaphylaxis, angioedema, hypotension, tachycardia, swollen tongue, dyspnea, wheezing and rash.

Orthostatic Hypotension, Syncope, and Other Hemodynamic Effects

SAPHRIS may induce orthostatic hypotension and syncope in some patients, especially early in treatment, because of its α1-adrenergic antagonist activity. In short-term schizophrenia trials, syncope was reported in 0.2% (1/572) of patients treated with therapeutic doses (5 mg or 10 mg twice daily) of SAPHRIS, compared to 0.3% (1/378) of patients treated with placebo. In short-term bipolar mania trials, syncope was reported in 0.3% (1/379) of patients treated with therapeutic doses (5 mg or 10 mg twice daily) of SAPHRIS, compared to 0% (0/203) of patients treated with placebo. During pre-marketing clinical trials with SAPHRIS, including long-term trials without comparison to placebo, syncope was reported in 0.6% (11/1953) of patients treated with SAPHRIS.

Four normal volunteers in clinical pharmacology studies treated with either intravenous, oral, or sublingual SAPHRIS experienced hypotension, bradycardia, and sinus pauses. These spontaneously resolved in 3 cases, but the fourth subject received external cardiac massage. The risk of this sequence of hypotension, bradycardia, and sinus pause might be greater in nonpsychiatric patients compared to psychiatric patients who are possibly more adapted to certain effects of psychotropic drugs.

Patients should be instructed about nonpharmacologic interventions that help to reduce the occurrence of orthostatic hypotension (e.g., sitting on the edge of the bed for several minutes before attempting to stand in the morning and slowly rising from a seated position). SAPHRIS should be used with caution in (1) patients with known cardiovascular disease (history of myocardial infarction or ischemic heart disease, heart failure or conduction abnormalities), cerebrovascular disease, or conditions which would predispose patients to hypotension (dehydration, hypovolemia, and treatment with antihypertensive medications); and (2) in the elderly. SAPHRIS should be used cautiously when treating patients who receive treatment with other drugs that can induce hypotension, bradycardia, respiratory or central nervous system depression [see Drug Interactions (7) ]. Monitoring of orthostatic vital signs should be considered in all such patients, and a dose reduction should be considered if hypotension occurs.

Leukopenia, Neutropenia, and Agranulocytosis

In clinical trial and postmarketing experience, events of leukopenia/neutropenia have been reported temporally related to antipsychotic agents, including SAPHRIS. Agranulocytosis (including fatal cases) has been reported with other agents in the class.

Possible risk factors for leukopenia/neutropenia include pre-existing low white blood cell count (WBC) and history of drug induced leukopenia/neutropenia. Patients with a pre-existing low WBC or a history of drug induced leukopenia/neutropenia should have their complete blood count (CBC) monitored frequently during the first few months of therapy and SAPHRIS should be discontinued at the first sign of decline in WBC in the absence of other causative factors.

Patients with neutropenia should be carefully monitored for fever or other symptoms or signs of infection and treated promptly if such symptoms or signs occur. Patients with severe neutropenia (absolute neutrophil count <1000/mm3) should discontinue SAPHRIS and have their WBC followed until recovery.

QT Prolongation

The effects of SAPHRIS on the QT/QTc interval were evaluated in a dedicated QT study. This trial involved SAPHRIS doses of 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, and 20 mg twice daily, and placebo, and was conducted in 151 clinically stable patients with schizophrenia, with electrocardiographic assessments throughout the dosing interval at baseline and steady state. At these doses, SAPHRIS was associated with increases in QTc interval ranging from 2 to 5 msec compared to placebo. No patients treated with SAPHRIS experienced QTc increases ≥60 msec from baseline measurements, nor did any patient experience a QTc of ≥500 msec.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements were taken at various time points during the SAPHRIS clinical trial program (5-mg or 10-mg twice daily doses). Post-baseline QT prolongations exceeding 500 msec were reported at comparable rates for SAPHRIS and placebo in these short-term trials. There were no reports of Torsade de Pointes or any other adverse reactions associated with delayed ventricular repolarization.

The use of SAPHRIS should be avoided in combination with other drugs known to prolong QTc including Class 1A antiarrhythmics (e.g., quinidine, procainamide) or Class 3 antiarrhythmics (e.g., amiodarone, sotalol), antipsychotic medications (e.g., ziprasidone, chlorpromazine, thioridazine), and antibiotics (e.g., gatifloxacin, moxifloxacin). SAPHRIS should also be avoided in patients with a history of cardiac arrhythmias and in other circumstances that may increase the risk of the occurrence of torsade de pointes and/or sudden death in association with the use of drugs that prolong the QTc interval, including bradycardia; hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia; and presence of congenital prolongation of the QT interval.


Like other drugs that antagonize dopamine D2 receptors, SAPHRIS can elevate prolactin levels, and the elevation can persist during chronic administration. Hyperprolactinemia may suppress hypothalamic GnRH, resulting in reduced pituitary gonadotropin secretion. This, in turn, may inhibit reproductive function by impairing gonadal steroidogenesis in both female and male patients. Galactorrhea, amenorrhea, gynecomastia, and impotence have been reported in patients receiving prolactin-elevating compounds. Long-standing hyperprolactinemia when associated with hypogonadism may lead to decreased bone density in both female and male subjects. In SAPHRIS clinical trials, the incidences of adverse events related to abnormal prolactin levels were 0.4% versus 0% for placebo [see Adverse Reactions].

Tissue culture experiments indicate that approximately one-third of human breast cancers are prolactin-dependent in vitro, a factor of potential importance if the prescription of these drugs is considered in a patient with previously-detected breast cancer. Neither clinical studies nor epidemiologic studies conducted to date have shown an association between chronic administration of this class of drugs and tumorigenesis in humans, but the available evidence is too limited to be conclusive.


Seizures were reported in 0% and 0.3% (0/572, 1/379) of patients treated with doses of 5 mg and 10 mg twice daily of SAPHRIS, respectively, compared to 0% (0/503, 0/203) of patients treated with placebo in short-term schizophrenia and bipolar mania trials, respectively. During pre-marketing clinical trials with SAPHRIS, including long-term trials without comparison to placebo, seizures were reported in 0.3% (5/1953) of patients treated with SAPHRIS. As with other antipsychotic drugs, SAPHRIS should be used with caution in patients with a history of seizures or with conditions that potentially lower the seizure threshold, e.g., Alzheimer's dementia. Conditions that lower the seizure threshold may be more prevalent in patients 65 years or older.

Potential for Cognitive and Motor Impairment

Somnolence was reported in patients treated with SAPHRIS. It was usually transient with the highest incidence reported during the first week of treatment. In short-term, fixed-dose, placebo-controlled schizophrenia trials, somnolence was reported in 15% (41/274) of patients on SAPHRIS 5 mg twice daily and in 13% (26/208) of patients on SAPHRIS 10 mg twice daily compared to 7% (26/378) of placebo patients. In short-term, placebo-controlled bipolar mania trials of therapeutic doses (5-10 mg twice daily), somnolence was reported in 24% (90/379) of patients on SAPHRIS compared to 6% (13/203) of placebo patients. During pre-marketing clinical trials with SAPHRIS, including long-term trials without comparison to placebo, somnolence was reported in 18% (358/1953) of patients treated with SAPHRIS. Somnolence (including sedation) led to discontinuation in 0.6% (12/1953) of patients in short-term, placebo-controlled trials.

Patients should be cautioned about performing activities requiring mental alertness, such as operating hazardous machinery or operating a motor vehicle, until they are reasonably certain that SAPHRIS therapy does not affect them adversely.

Body Temperature Regulation

Disruption of the body's ability to reduce core body temperature has been attributed to antipsychotic agents. In the short-term placebo-controlled trials for both schizophrenia and acute bipolar disorder, the incidence of adverse reactions suggestive of body temperature increases was low (≤1%) and comparable to placebo. During pre-marketing clinical trials with SAPHRIS, including long-term trials without comparison to placebo, the incidence of adverse reactions suggestive of body temperature increases (pyrexia and feeling hot) was ≤1%. Appropriate care is advised when prescribing SAPHRIS for patients who will be experiencing conditions that may contribute to an elevation in core body temperature, e.g., exercising strenuously, exposure to extreme heat, receiving concomitant medication with anticholinergic activity, or being subject to dehydration.


The possibility of a suicide attempt is inherent in psychotic illnesses and bipolar disorder, and close supervision of high-risk patients should accompany drug therapy. Prescriptions for SAPHRIS should be written for the smallest quantity of tablets consistent with good patient management in order to reduce the risk of overdose.


Esophageal dysmotility and aspiration have been associated with antipsychotic drug use. Dysphagia was reported in 0.2% and 0% (1/572, 0/379) of patients treated with therapeutic doses (5-10 mg twice daily) of SAPHRIS as compared to 0% (0/378, 0/203) of patients treated with placebo in short-term schizophrenia and bipolar mania trials, respectively. During pre-marketing clinical trials with SAPHRIS, including long-term trials without comparison to placebo, dysphagia was reported in 0.1% (2/1953) of patients treated with SAPHRIS.

Aspiration pneumonia is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in elderly patients, in particular those with advanced Alzheimer's dementia. SAPHRIS is not indicated for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis, and should not be used in patients at risk for aspiration pneumonia [see also Warnings and Precautions].

Use in Patients with Concomitant Illness

Clinical experience with SAPHRIS in patients with certain concomitant systemic illnesses is limited [see Clinical Pharmacology].

SAPHRIS has not been evaluated in patients with a recent history of myocardial infarction or unstable heart disease. Patients with these diagnoses were excluded from pre-marketing clinical trials. Because of the risk of orthostatic hypotension with SAPHRIS, caution should be observed in cardiac patients [see Warnings and Precautions].



Pregnancy Category C: There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of SAPHRIS in pregnant women.

In animal studies, asenapine increased post-implantation loss and decreased pup weight and survival at doses similar to or less than recommended clinical doses. In these studies there was no increase in the incidence of structural abnormalities caused by asenapine.

Asenapine was not teratogenic in reproduction studies in rats and rabbits at intravenous doses up to 1.5 mg/kg in rats and 0.44 mg/kg in rabbits. These doses are 0.7 and 0.4 times, respectively, the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD) of 10 mg twice daily given sublingually on a mg/m2 basis. Plasma levels of asenapine were measured in the rabbit study, and the area under the curve (AUC) at the highest dose tested was 2 times that in humans receiving the MRHD.

In a study in which rats were treated from day 6 of gestation through day 21 postpartum with intravenous doses of asenapine of 0.3, 0.9, and 1.5 mg/kg/day (0.15, 0.4, and 0.7 times the MRHD of 10 mg twice daily given sublingually on a mg/m2 basis), increases in post-implantation loss and early pup deaths were seen at all doses, and decreases in subsequent pup survival and weight gain were seen at the two higher doses. A cross-fostering study indicated that the decreases in pup survival were largely due to prenatal drug effects. Increases in post-implantation loss and decreases in pup weight and survival were also seen when pregnant rats were dosed orally with asenapine.

Non-teratogenic Effects

Neonates exposed to antipsychotic drugs during the third trimester of pregnancy are at risk for extrapyramidal and/or withdrawal symptoms following delivery. There have been reports of agitation, hypertonia, hypotonia, tremor, somnolence, respiratory distress and feeding disorder in these neonates. These complications have varied in severity; while in some cases symptoms have been self-limited, in other cases neonates have required intensive care unit support and prolonged hospitalization. SAPHRIS (asenapine) should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Labor and Delivery

The effect of SAPHRIS on labor and delivery in humans is unknown.

Nursing Mothers

Asenapine is excreted in milk of rats during lactation. It is not known whether asenapine or its metabolites are excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when SAPHRIS is administered to a nursing woman. It is recommended that women receiving SAPHRIS should not breast feed.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of SAPHRIS in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar mania did not include sufficient numbers of patients aged 65 and over to determine whether or not they respond differently than younger patients. Of the approximately 2250 patients in pre-marketing clinical studies of SAPHRIS, 1.1% were 65 years of age or over. Multiple factors that might increase the pharmacodynamic response to SAPHRIS, causing poorer tolerance or orthostasis, could be present in elderly patients, and these patients should be monitored carefully.

In elderly patients with psychosis, asenapine exposure (AUC) was on average 40% higher compared to younger adult patients [see Clinical Pharmacology].

Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with SAPHRIS are at an increased risk of death compared to placebo. SAPHRIS is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis [see Boxed Warning ].

Renal Impairment

The exposure of asenapine following a single dose of 5 mg was similar among subjects with varying degrees of renal impairment and subjects with normal renal function [see Clinical Pharmacology].

Hepatic Impairment

In subjects with severe hepatic impairment who were treated with a single dose of SAPHRIS 5 mg, asenapine exposures (on average), were 7-fold higher than the exposures observed in subjects with normal hepatic function. Thus, SAPHRIS is not recommended in patients with severe hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh C) [see Dosage and Administration and Clinical Pharmacology].

Page last updated: 2013-03-12

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