Theophylline should be used with extreme caution in patients with the following clinical conditions due to the increased risk of exacerbation of the concurrent condition:
Active peptic ulcer disease
Cardiac arrhythmias (not including bradyarrhythmias)
Conditions That Reduce Theophylline Clearance
There are several readily identifiable causes of reduced theophylline clearance. If the total daily dose is not appropriately reduced in the presence of these risk factors, severe and potentially fatal theophylline toxicity can occur . Careful consideration must be given to the benefits and risks of theophylline use and the need for more intensive monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations in patients with the following risk factors:
- Neonates (term and premature)
- Children <1 year
- Elderly (>60 years)
- Acute pulmonary edema
- Congestive heart failure
- Fever; ≥102° for 24 hours or more; or lesser temperature elevations for longer periods
- Liver disease; cirrhosis, acute hepatitis
- Reduced renal function in infants <3 months of age
- Sepsis with multi-organ failure
Cessation of Smoking
Adding a drug that inhibits theophylline metabolism (e.g., cimetidine, erythromycin, tacrine) or stopping a concurrently administered drug that enhances theophylline metabolism (e.g., carbamazepine, rifampin). (See PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Table II).
When Signs or Symptoms of Theophylline Toxicity Are Present
Whenever a patient receiving theophylline develops nausea or vomiting, particularly repetitive vomiting, or other signs or symptoms consistent with theophylline toxicity (even if another cause may be suspected), additional doses of theophylline should be withheld and a serum theophylline concentration measured immediately . Patients should be instructed not to continue any dosage that causes adverse effects and to withhold subsequent doses until the symptoms have resolved, at which time the healthcare professional may instruct the patient to resume the drug at a lower dosage (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Dosing Guidelines, Table VI).
Increases in the dose of theophylline should not be made in response to an acute exacerbation of symptoms of chronic lung disease since theophylline provides little added benefit to inhaled beta2-selective agonists and systemically administered corticosteroids in this circumstance and increases the risk of adverse effects. A peak steady-state serum theophylline concentration should be measured before increasing the dose in response to persistent chronic symptoms to ascertain whether an increase in dose is safe. Before increasing the theophylline dose on the basis of a low serum concentration, the healthcare professional should consider whether the blood sample was obtained at an appropriate time in relationship to the dose and whether the patient has adhered to the prescribed regimen (see PRECAUTIONS, Laboratory Tests).
As the rate of theophylline clearance may be dose-dependent (i.e., steady-state serum concentrations may increase disproportionately to the increase in dose), an increase in dose based upon a sub-therapeutic serum concentration measurement should be conservative. In general, limiting dose increases to about 25% of the previous total daily dose will reduce the risk of unintended excessive increases in serum theophylline concentration (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table VI).
Careful consideration of the various interacting drugs and physiologic conditions that can alter theophylline clearance and require dosage adjustment should occur prior to initiation of theophylline therapy, prior to increases in theophylline dose, and during follow up (see WARNINGS). The dose of theophylline selected for initiation of therapy should be low and, if tolerated, increased slowly over a period of a week or longer with the final dose guided by monitoring serum theophylline concentrations and the patient’s clinical response (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table V).
Monitoring Serum Theophylline Concentrations
Serum theophylline concentration measurements are readily available and should be used to determine whether the dosage is appropriate. Specifically, the serum theophylline concentration should be measured as follows:
- When initiating therapy to guide final dosage adjustment after titration.
- Before making a dose increase to determine whether the serum concentration is sub-therapeutic in a patient who continues to be symptomatic.
- Whenever signs or symptoms of theophylline toxicity are present.
- Whenever there is a new illness, worsening of a chronic illness or a change in the patient’s treatment regimen that may alter theophylline clearance (e.g., fever >102°F sustained for ≥24 hours, hepatitis, or drugs listed in Table II are added or discontinued).
To guide a dose increase, the blood sample should be obtained at the time of the expected peak serum theophylline concentration; 12 hours after an evening dose or 9 hours after a morning dose at steady-state. For most patients, steady-state will be reached after 3 days of dosing when no doses have been missed, no extra doses have been added, and none of the doses have been taken at unequal intervals. A trough concentration (i.e., at the end of the dosing interval) provides no additional useful information and may lead to an inappropriate dose increase since the peak serum theophylline concentration can be two or more times greater than the trough concentration with an immediate-release formulation. If the serum sample is drawn more than 12 hours after the evening dose, or more than 9 hours after a morning dose, the results must be interpreted with caution since the concentration may not be reflective of the peak concentration. In contrast, when signs or symptoms of theophylline toxicity are present, a serum sample should be obtained as soon as possible, analyzed immediately, and the result reported to the healthcare professional without delay. In patients in whom decreased serum protein binding is suspected (e.g., cirrhosis, women during the third trimester of pregnancy), the concentration of unbound theophylline should be measured and the dosage adjusted to achieve an unbound concentration of 6-12 mcg/mL.
Saliva concentrations of theophylline cannot be used reliably to adjust dosage without special techniques.
Effects on Laboratory Tests
As a result of its pharmacological effects, theophylline at serum concentrations within the 10-20 mcg/mL range modestly increases plasma glucose (from a mean of 88 mg% to 98 mg%), uric acid (from a mean of 4 mg/dL to 6 mg/dL), free fatty acids (from a mean of 451 µEq/L to 800 µEq/L, total cholesterol (from a mean of 140 vs 160 mg/dL), HDL (from a mean of 36 to 50 mg/dL), HDL/LDL ratio (from a mean of 0.5 to 0.7), and urinary free cortisol excretion (from a mean of 44 to 63 mcg/24 hr). Theophylline at serum concentrations within the 10-20 mcg/mL range may also transiently decrease serum concentrations of triiodothyronine (144 before, 131 after one week and 142 ng/dL after 4 weeks of theophylline). The clinical importance of these changes should be weighed against the potential therapeutic benefit of theophylline in individual patients.
Information for Patients
The patient (or parent/caregiver) should be instructed to seek medical advice whenever nausea, vomiting, persistent headache, insomnia or rapid heartbeat occurs during treatment with theophylline, even if another cause is suspected. The patient should be instructed to contact their healthcare professional if they develop a new illness, especially if accompanied by a persistent fever, if they experience worsening of a chronic illness, if they start or stop smoking cigarettes or marijuana, or if another healthcare professional adds a new medication or discontinues a previously prescribed medication. Patients should be informed that theophylline interacts with a wide variety of drugs (see Table II). The dietary supplement St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) should not be taken at the same time as theophylline, since it may result in decreased theophylline levels. If patients are already taking St. John’s Wort and theophylline together, they should consult their healthcare professional before stopping the St. John’s Wort, since their theophylline concentrations may rise when this is done, resulting in toxicity. Patients should be instructed to inform all healthcare professionals involved in their care that they are taking theophylline, especially when a medication is being added or deleted from their treatment. Patients should be instructed to not alter the dose, timing of the dose, or frequency of administration without first consulting their healthcare professional. If a dose is missed, the patient should be instructed to take the next dose at the usually scheduled time and to not attempt to make up for the missed dose.
Uniphyl® Tablets can be taken once a day in the morning or evening. It is recommended that Uniphyl be taken with meals. Patients should be advised that if they choose to take Uniphyl with food it should be taken consistently with food and if they take it in a fasted condition it should routinely be taken fasted. It is important that the product whenever dosed be dosed consistently with or without food.
Uniphyl Tablets are not to be chewed or crushed because it may lead to a rapid release of theophylline with the potential for toxicity. The scored tablet may be split. Patients receiving Uniphyl Tablets may pass an intact matrix tablet in the stool or via colostomy. These matrix tablets usually contain little or no residual theophylline.
Theophylline interacts with a wide variety of drugs. The interaction may be pharmacodynamic, i.e., alterations in the therapeutic response to theophylline or another drug or occurrence of adverse effects without a change in serum theophylline concentration. More frequently, however, the interaction is pharmacokinetic, i.e., the rate of theophylline clearance is altered by another drug resulting in increased or decreased serum theophylline concentrations. Theophylline only rarely alters the pharmacokinetics of other drugs.
The drugs listed in Table II have the potential to produce clinically significant pharmacodynamic or pharmacokinetic interactions with theophylline. The information in the “Effect” column of Table II assumes that the interacting drug is being added to a steady-state theophylline regimen. If theophylline is being initiated in a patient who is already taking a drug that inhibits theophylline clearance (e.g., cimetidine, erythromycin), the dose of theophylline required to achieve a therapeutic serum theophylline concentration will be smaller. Conversely, if theophylline is being initiated in a patient who is already taking a drug that enhances theophylline clearance (e.g., rifampin), the dose of theophylline required to achieve a therapeutic serum theophylline concentration will be larger. Discontinuation of a concomitant drug that increases theophylline clearance will result in accumulation of theophylline to potentially toxic levels, unless the theophylline dose is appropriately reduced. Discontinuation of a concomitant drug that inhibits theophylline clearance will result in decreased serum theophylline concentrations, unless the theophylline dose is appropriately increased.
The drugs listed in Table III have either been documented not to interact with theophylline or do not produce a clinically significant interaction (i.e., <15% change in theophylline clearance).
The listing of drugs in Tables II and III are current as of February 9, 1995. New interactions are continuously being reported for theophylline, especially with new chemical entities. The healthcare professional should not assume that a drug does not interact with theophylline if it is not listed in Table II. Before addition of a newly available drug in a patient receiving theophylline, the package insert of the new drug and/or the medical literature should be consulted to determine if an interaction between the new drug and theophylline has been reported.
TABLE II. Clinically significant drug interactions with theophylline.*
|Drug||Type of Interaction||Effect**|
| *Refer to PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions for further information regarding table. |
| **Average effect on steady-state theophylline concentration or other clinical effect for pharmacologic interactions. Individual patients may experience larger changes in serum theophylline concentration than the value listed. |
|Adenosine||Theophylline blocks adenosine receptors.||Higher doses of adenosine may be required to achieve desired effect.|
|Alcohol||A single large dose of alcohol (3 mL/kg of whiskey) decreases theophylline clearance for up to 24 hours.||30% increase|
|Allopurinol||Decreases theophylline clearance at allopurinol doses ≥600 mg/day.||25% increase|
|Aminoglutethimide||Increases theophylline clearance by induction of microsomal enzyme activity.||25% decrease|
|Carbamazepine||Similar to aminoglutethimide.||30% decrease|
|Cimetidine||Decreases theophylline clearance by inhibiting cytochrome P450 1A2.||70% increase|
|Ciprofloxacin||Similar to cimetidine.||40% increase|
|Clarithromycin||Similar to erythromycin.||25% increase|
|Diazepam||Benzodiazepines increase CNS concentrations of adenosine, a potent CNS depressant, while theophylline blocks adenosine receptors.||Larger diazepam doses may be required to produce desired level of sedation. Discontinuation of theophylline without reduction of diazepam dose may result in respiratory depression.|
|Disulfiram||Decreases theophylline clearance by inhibiting hydroxylation and demethylation.||50% increase|
|Enoxacin||Similar to cimetidine.||300% increase|
|Ephedrine||Synergistic CNS effects.||Increased frequency of nausea, nervousness, and insomnia.|
|Erythromycin||Erythromycin metabolite decreases theophylline clearance by inhibiting cytochrome P450 3A3.||35% increase. Erythromycin steady-state serum concentrations decrease by a similar amount.|
|Estrogen||Estrogen containing oral contraceptives decrease theophylline clearance in a dose-dependent fashion. The effect of progesterone on theophylline clearance is unknown.||30% increase|
|Flurazepam||Similar to diazepam.||Similar to diazepam.|
|Fluvoxamine||Similar to cimetidine.||Similar to cimetidine.|
|Halothane||Halothane sensitizes the myocardium to catecholamines, theophylline increases release of endogenous catecholamines.||Increased risk of ventricular arrhythmias.|
|Interferon, human recombinant alpha-A||Decreases theophylline clearance.||100% increase|
|Isoproterenol (IV)||Increases theophylline clearance.||20% decrease|
|Ketamine||Pharmacologic||May lower theophylline seizure threshold.|
|Lithium||Theophylline increases renal lithium clearance.||Lithium dose required to achieve a therapeutic serum concentration increased an average of 60%.|
|Lorazepam||Similar to diazepam.||Similar to diazepam.|
|Methotrexate (MTX)||Decreases theophylline clearance.||20% increase after low dose MTX, higher dose MTX may have a greater effect.|
|Mexiletine||Similar to disulfiram.||80% increase|
|Midazolam||Similar to diazepam.||Similar to diazepam.|
|Moricizine||Increases theophylline clearance.||25% decrease|
|Pancuronium||Theophylline may antagonize non-depolarizing neuromuscular blocking effects; possibly due to phosphodiesterase inhibition.||Larger dose of pancuronium may be required to achieve neuromuscular blockade.|
|Pentoxifylline||Decreases theophylline clearance.||30% increase|
|Phenobarbital (PB)||Similar to aminoglutethimide.||25% decrease after two weeks of concurrent PB.|
|Phenytoin||Phenytoin increases theophylline clearance by increasing microsomal enzyme activity. Theophylline decreases phenytoin absorption.||Serum theophylline and phenytoin concentrations decrease about 40%.|
|Propafenone||Decreases theophylline clearance and pharmacologic interaction.||40% increase. Beta-2 blocking effect may decrease efficacy of theophylline.|
|Propranolol||Similar to cimetidine and pharmacologic interaction.||100% increase. Beta-2 blocking effect may decrease efficacy of theophylline.|
|Rifampin||Increases theophylline clearance by increasing cytochrome P450 1A2 and 3A3 activity.||20-40% decrease|
|St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) ||Decrease in theophylline plasma concentrations.||Higher doses of theophylline may be required to achieve desired effect. Stopping St. John’s Wort may result in theophylline toxicity.|
|Sulfinpyrazone||Increases theophylline clearance by increasing demethylation and hydroxylation. Decreases renal clearance of theophylline.||20% decrease|
|Tacrine||Similar to cimetidine, also increases renal clearance of theophylline.||90% increase|
|Thiabendazole||Decreases theophylline clearance.||190% increase|
|Ticlopidine||Decreases theophylline clearance.||60% increase|
|Troleandomycin||Similar to erythromycin.||33-100% increase depending on troleandomycin dose.|
|Verapamil||Similar to disulfiram.||20% increase|
TABLE III. Drugs that have been documented not to interact with theophylline or drugs that produce no clinically significant interaction with theophylline. *
| *Refer to PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions for information regarding table. |
|albuterol, systemic and inhaled||mebendazole|
|ampicillin, with or without |
|caffeine, dietary ingestion||nifedipine|
|co-trimoxazole (trimethoprim and|
|finasteride||sorbitol (purgative doses do not inhibit |
The bioavailability of Uniphyl® Tablets (theophylline, anhydrous) has been studied with co-administration of food. In three single-dose studies, subjects given Uniphyl 400 mg or 600 mg Tablets with a standardized high-fat meal were compared to fasted conditions. Under fed conditions, the peak plasma concentration and bioavailability were increased; however, a precipitous increase in the rate and extent of absorption was not evident (see Pharmacokinetics, Absorption). The increased peak and extent of absorption under fed conditions suggests that dosing should be ideally administered consistently either with or without food.
The Effect of Other Drugs on Theophylline Serum Concentration Measurements
Most serum theophylline assays in clinical use are immunoassays which are specific for theophylline. Other xanthines such as caffeine, dyphylline, and pentoxifylline are not detected by these assays. Some drugs (e.g., cefazolin, cephalothin), however, may interfere with certain HPLC techniques. Caffeine and xanthine metabolites in neonates or patients with renal dysfunction may cause the reading from some dry reagent office methods to be higher than the actual serum theophylline concentration.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, and Impairment of Fertility
Long term carcinogenicity studies have been carried out in mice (oral doses 30-150 mg/kg) and rats (oral doses 5-75 mg/kg). Results are pending.
Theophylline has been studied in Ames salmonella, in vivo and in vitro cytogenetics, micronucleus and Chinese hamster ovary test systems and has not been shown to be genotoxic.
In a 14 week continuous breeding study, theophylline, administered to mating pairs of B6C3F1 mice at oral doses of 120, 270 and 500 mg/kg (approximately 1.0-3.0 times the human dose on a mg/m2 basis) impaired fertility, as evidenced by decreases in the number of live pups per litter, decreases in the mean number of litters per fertile pair, and increases in the gestation period at the high dose as well as decreases in the proportion of pups born alive at the mid and high dose. In 13 week toxicity studies, theophylline was administered to F344 rats and B6C3F1 mice at oral doses of 40-300 mg/kg (approximately 2.0 times the human dose on a mg/m2 basis). At the high dose, systemic toxicity was observed in both species including decreases in testicular weight.
Pregnancy: Teratogenic Effects: Category C
In studies in which pregnant mice, rats and rabbits were dosed during the period of organogenesis, theophylline produced teratogenic effects.
In studies with mice, a single intraperitoneal dose at and above 100 mg/kg (approximately equal to the maximum recommended oral dose for adults on a mg/m2 basis) during organogenesis produced cleft palate and digital abnormalities. Micromelia, micrognathia, clubfoot, subcutaneous hematoma, open eyelids, and embryolethality were observed at doses that are approximately 2 times the maximum recommended oral dose for adults on a mg/m2 basis.
In a study with rats dosed from conception through organogenesis, an oral dose of 150 mg/kg/day (approximately 2 times the maximum recommended oral dose for adults on a mg/m2 basis) produced digital abnormalities. Embryolethality was observed with a subcutaneous dose of 200 mg/kg/day (approximately 4 times the maximum recommended oral dose for adults on a mg/m2 basis).
In a study in which pregnant rabbits were dosed throughout organogenesis, an intravenous dose of 60 mg/kg/day (approximately 2 times the maximum recommended oral dose for adults on a mg/m2 basis), which caused the death of one doe and clinical signs in others, produced cleft palate and was embryolethal. Doses at and above 15 mg/kg/day (less than the maximum recommended oral dose for adults on a mg/m2 basis) increased the incidence of skeletal variations.
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Theophylline should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Theophylline is excreted into breast milk and may cause irritability or other signs of mild toxicity in nursing human infants. The concentration of theophylline in breast milk is about equivalent to the maternal serum concentration. An infant ingesting a liter of breast milk containing 10-20 mcg/mL of theophylline per day is likely to receive 10-20 mg of theophylline per day. Serious adverse effects in the infant are unlikely unless the mother has toxic serum theophylline concentrations.
Theophylline is safe and effective for the approved indications in pediatric patients. The maintenance dose of theophylline must be selected with caution in pediatric patients since the rate of theophylline clearance is highly variable across the pediatric age range (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Table I, WARNINGS, and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table V).
Elderly patients are at a significantly greater risk of experiencing serious toxicity from theophylline than younger patients due to pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic changes associated with aging. The clearance of theophylline is decreased by an average of 30% in healthy elderly adults (>60 yrs) compared to healthy young adults. Theophylline clearance may be further reduced by concomitant diseases prevalent in the elderly, which further impair clearance of this drug and have the potential to increase serum levels and potential toxicity. These conditions include impaired renal function, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, hepatic disease and an increased prevalence of use of certain medications (see PRECAUTIONS: Drug Interactions) with the potential for pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic interaction. Protein binding may be decreased in the elderly resulting in an increased proportion of the total serum theophylline concentration in the pharmacologically active unbound form. Elderly patients also appear to be more sensitive to the toxic effects of theophylline after chronic overdosage than younger patients. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in elderly patients (see PRECAUTIONS, Monitoring Serum Theophylline Concentrations, and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). The maximum daily dose of theophylline in patients greater than 60 years of age ordinarily should not exceed 400 mg/day unless the patient continues to be symptomatic and the peak steady-state serum theophylline concentration is <10 mcg/mL (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Theophylline doses greater than 400 mg/d should be prescribed with caution in elderly patients.