Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter, Volume 22 - Issue 2 - April 2012

ISSN 1499-9447
Cat no H42-4/1-22-2E

Health Products and Food Branch
Marketed Health Products Directorate
Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter Editorial Team

In this Issue:


This quarterly publication alerts health professionals to potential signals detected through the review of case reports submitted to Health Canada. It is a useful mechanism to stimulate adverse reaction reporting as well as to disseminate information on suspected adverse reactions to health products occurring in humans before comprehensive risk-benefit evaluations and regulatory decisions are undertaken. The continuous evaluation of health product safety profiles depends on the quality of your reports.

Reporting Adverse Reactions
Canada Vigilance Program
Phone: 1-866-234-2345
Fax: 1-866-678-6789

For more information on how to report an adverse reaction, visit the Reporting Adverse Reactions to Drugs and Other Health Products page.

Caveat:  Adverse reactions (ARs) to health products are considered to be suspicions, as a definite causal association often cannot be determined. Spontaneous reports of ARs cannot be used to estimate the incidence of ARs because ARs remain underreported and patient exposure is unknown.

Some of the hyperlinks provided are to sites of organizations or other entities that are not subject to the  
. The material found there is therefore in the language(s) used by the sites in question.

Minocycline: drug-induced lupus erythematosus and autoimmune hepatitis in adolescents

Key points

  • Long-term use of minocycline, an antibiotic widely used off label for the treatment of acne, has been associated with drug-induced lupus erythematosus and autoimmune hepatitis.
  • Since 2004, Health Canada received 7 reports of drug-induced lupus erythematosus or autoimmune hepatitis suspected of being associated with minocycline in adolescents.
  • If minocycline-induced autoimmune hepatitis is unrecognized and drug exposure continues, hepatic fibrosis and chronic liver disease may develop.

Minocycline is a second-generation tetracycline that exhibits both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.Footnote 1 In Canada, minocycline (first approved in 1969 under the trade name Minocin) is currently marketed by several manufacturers and is indicated for the treatment of various infections.Footnote 2

Because the pathogenesis of acne can include bacterial proliferation (Propionibacterium acnes) and inflammation, oral antibiotics such as tetracyclines are frequently prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe acne. Response to oral antibiotics is usually seen after at least 6 weeks of therapy, and treatment can last for several months.Footnote 3

The occurrence of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus erythematosus and autoimmune hepatitis, has been associated with the use of a number of health products, including minocycline.Footnote 4-Footnote 6 When these disorders are associated with drug use, the underlying mechanisms are not well established. However, long-term drug use is generally involved.Footnote 4,Footnote 6 One of the most common autoimmune diseases is systemic lupus erythematosus, and about 10% of these cases can be related to drug use.Footnote 5 Drug-induced lupus erythematosus can produce symptoms that include myalgia, arthralgia and serositis, as well as abnormal laboratory results such as elevated markers of inflammation and the presence of antinuclear antibodies.Footnote 5,otnote 6 Minocycline-induced autoimmune hepatitis shares many characteristics with autoimmune hepatitis, such as the presence of antinuclear and anti-smooth-muscle antibodies, elevated immunoglobulin levels and histologic features.Footnote 4

Minocycline is generally considered a low-risk drug in the development of drug-induced lupus erythematosus.Footnote 5,Footnote 6 However, there is significant overlap of clinical presentation between drug-induced lupus erythematosus and drug-induced autoimmune hepatitis associated with the long-term use of minocycline.Footnote 4,Footnote 7,Footnote 8 Also, minocycline-induced lupus erythematosus and autoimmune hepatitis are well documented.

As of Sept. 30, 2011, Health Canada received 4 reports of drug-induced lupus erythematosus and 3 reports of autoimmune hepatitis suspected of being associated with minocycline use in adolescents. All the adverse reactions (ARs) were serious, involved the use of minocycline for the treatment of acne and occurred between 2004 and 2009 (Table 1).

Table 1: Summary of 7 reports of drug-induced lupus erythematosus and autoimmune hepatitis suspected of being associated with the use of minocycline for acne in adolescents submitted to Health Canada as of Sept. 30, 2011 Footnote *
Case Age/sex Adverse reaction (AR)Footnote Duration of exposure OutcomeFootnote
1 15/F Drug-induced lupus erythematosus 20 mo Recovered
2 15/F Drug-induced lupus erythematosus 5 mo Recovered
3 16/F Drug-induced lupus erythematosus 9 mo Not recovered
4 17/F Drug-induced lupus erythematosus 3 wk Recovered
5 16/M Autoimmune hepatitis 8 mo Recovered
6 15/F Autoimmune hepatitis 2 yr Recovered
7 18/M Autoimmune hepatitis Unspecified Recovered
*These data cannot be used to determine the incidence of ARs because ARs are underreported and neither patient exposure nor the amount of time the drug was on the market has been taken into consideration.
Reaction terms are listed according to the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA).
At the time of reporting.

Three additional cases were reported in 2006, 2007 and 2011 but are not included in the table because a formal diagnosis of drug-induced lupus erythematosus (in the first two cases) or autoimmune hepatitis (in the third case) was not reported. The first case reported abnormal laboratory results commonly found in drug-induced lupus erythematosus (presence of antinuclear antibodies) and arthralgia in a 15-year-old girl who had been taking minocycline for 18 months. The second case, also involving a 15-year-old girl, reported the occurrence of an illness resembling systemic lupus erythematosus after 12 months of minocycline use. The third case involved a 14-year-old girl who had been taking minocycline for about 14 months; she presented with hepatitis, polyarthralgia and polyarthritis and was reported to be experiencing an autoimmune disorder.

Minocycline-induced lupus erythematosus and autoimmune hepatitis are serious ARs that can occur in healthy adolescents receiving treatment for acne. Their clinical course can often be reversed after the drug is stopped.Footnote 6 However, if minocycline-induced autoimmune hepatitis is unrecognized and drug exposure continues, hepatic fibrosis and chronic liver disease may develop.Footnote 8 Health care professionals are reminded of the risk of autoimmune disorders suspected of being associated with the long-term use of minocycline and are encouraged to report any suspected cases.

Marie-Thérèse Bawolak, PhD; Ilhemme Djelouah, RPh, BScPhm, DIS Medical Biology (University of Paris V), Health Canada



Footnote 1

Ochsendorf F. Minocyline in acne vulgaris. Am J Clin Dermatol 2010;11(5):327-41. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Minocin (minocycline) [product monograph]. Mississauga (ON) : GlaxoSmithKline Inc; 2010.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Kraft J, Freiman A. Management of acne. CMAJ 2011;183(7):E430-5. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

Björnsson E, Talwalkar J, Treeprasertsuk S, et al. Drug-induced autoimmune hepatitis: clinical characteristics and prognosis. Hepatology 2010;51(6):2040-8. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

Chang C, Gershwin ME. Drug-induced lupus erythematosus: incidence, management and prevention. Drug Saf 2011;34(5):357-74. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 5 referrer

Footnote 6

Chang C, Gershwin ME. Drugs and autoimmunity: a contemporary review and mechanistic approach. J Autoimmun 2010;34(3):J266-75. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 6 referrer

Footnote 7

El-Hallak M, Giani T, Yeniay BS, et al. Chronic minocycline-induced autoimmunity in children. J Pediatr 2008;153(3):314-9. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 7 referrer

Footnote 8

Czaja AJ. Drug-induced autoimmune-like hepatitis. Dig Dis Sci 2011;56(4):958-76. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 8 referrer

Fentanyl and serotonin syndrome

Key points

  • Fentanyl may be associated with serotonin syndrome, a life-threatening adverse reaction, when it is used concomitantly with a serotonergic agent.
  • In the past 10 years, Health Canada received 5 reports in which fentanyl was used concomitantly with a serotonergic agent and was considered a suspected drug precipitating serotonin syndrome.
  • Health care professionals and patients are encouraged to report to Health Canada any cases of serotonin syndrome suspected of being associated with the use of fentanyl.

Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening adverse reaction (AR) that may be prevented and treated.Footnote 1a It is often described as a clinical triad of changes in mental status, autonomic hyperactivity and neuromuscular abnormalities.Footnote 1a Not all of these findings, however, are consistently present in all patients with the disorder. According to the Hunter Serotonin Toxicity Criteria,Footnote 2a which are generally considered to be the preferred diagnostic tool, clonus (spontaneous, inducible and ocular) is the most important sign in establishing a diagnosis.Footnote 1a Drugs that directly or indirectly increase the intrasynaptic serotonin concentration to threatening levels can induce serotonin syndrome. The syndrome typically occurs in the setting of multiple drugs affecting serotonin neurotransmission through different mechanisms.Footnote 3a Successful management of serotonin syndrome requires heightened clinical awareness for prevention, recognition and prompt treatment.Footnote 4a

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid agonist used as an adjunct to anesthesia and for the postoperative management of pain following general surgical procedures and cesarean sections.Footnote 5a It is also indicated for the management of persistent, moderate to severe chronic pain that cannot be managed by other meansFootnote 6a and for the management of breakthrough cancer-related pain.Footnote 7a,Footnote 8a Fentanyl is widely used in various clinical practices, with several routes of administration.Footnote 3a The parenteral product has been marketed in Canada since 1967.

Fentanyl is not known to precipitate serotonin syndrome when used alone. However, it may be associated with serotonin syndrome when used concomitantly with a serotonergic agent.Footnote 9a The mechanism through which fentanyl may precipitate serotonin syndrome is not fully understood.Footnote 3a Fentanyl belongs to the opioid analgesic class known as phenylpiperidines (which also includes meperidine, tramadol, methadone and dextromethorphan), which are considered weak serotonin reuptake inhibitors.Footnote 3a,Footnote 10a However, data on fentanyl's serotonin transporter affinity are lacking.Footnote 10a

As of Sept. 30, 2011, Health Canada received 5 reports in which fentanyl was used concomitantly with a serotonergic agent and was considered a suspected drug precipitating serotonin syndrome (Table 1). All of the cases occurred within the past 10 years. One of these cases was fatal. Ten reports, including 1 of the 5 submitted to Health Canada,Footnote 11a have been published.Footnote 3a,Footnote 9a,Footnote 11a-Footnote 17a Eight were published in the past 4 years.Footnote 3a,Footnote 9a,Footnote 11a,Footnote 12a,Footnote 15a-Footnote 17a However, no studies on the topic were found in the literature.

Table 1: Summary of the 5 reports in which fentanyl was used concomitantly with a serotonergic agent and was considered a suspected drug precipitating serotonin syndrome submitted to Health Canada as of Sept. 30, 2011 Footnote *
Case Age/sex Route of fentanyl administration Indication Outcome Concomitant medications with serotonergic effectsFootnote
1Footnote 11 49/F Intravenous Anesthesia: cardiac surgery Recovered Paroxetine, fluvoxamine, meperidine, methylene blue
2 38/F Transdermal patch Analgesia: chronic pain syndrome Unknown Sertraline
3 51/M Transdermal patch Analgesia: back pain Recovered Venlafaxine
4 27/M Transdermal patch Unknown Recovered Venlafaxine
5 74/F Unknown Unknown Died Paroxetine
Footnote 1

These data cannot be used to determine the incidence of ARs because ARs are underreported and neither patient exposure nor the amount of time the drug was on the market has been taken into consideration.

Return to footnote * referrer

Footnote 2

Other concomitant agents not typically known to produce serotonergic activity have not been included.

Return to footnote referrer

There are many clinical situations when an individual could be exposed to a serotonergic agent and fentanyl concomitantly, and these may precipitate a potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome.Footnote 3a,Footnote 14a Health Canada is reviewing the available evidence on the association of fentanyl and serotonin syndrome and will communicate any new safety information or action resulting from its review, if indicated. Health care professionals and patients are encouraged to report to Health Canada any cases of serotonin syndrome suspected of being associated with the use of fentanyl.

Stephanie Ferrand, MD, Health Canada


Footnote 1

Boyer EW, Shannon M. The serotonin syndrome. N Engl J Med 2005; 352(11):1112-20. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 1a referrer

Footnote 2

Dunkley EJ, Isbister GK, Sibbritt D, et al. The Hunter Serotonin Toxicity Criteria: simple accurate diagnostic decision rules for serotonin toxicity. QJM 2003; 96(9):635-42. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 2a referrer

Footnote 3

Kirschner R, Donovan JW. Serotonin syndrome precipitated by fentanyl during procedural sedation. J Emerg Med 2010; 38(4):477-80. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 3a referrer

Footnote 4

Sternbach H. The serotonin syndrome. Am J Psychiatry 1991; 148(6):705-13. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 4a referrer

Footnote 5

Fentanyl Citrate Injection (fentanyl citrate) [product monograph]. Town of Mount-Royal (QC) : Hospira Healthcare Corporation; 2004.

Return to footnote 5a referrer

Footnote 6

Duragesic Mat (fentanyl transdermal system) [product monograph]. Markham (ON): Janssen-Ortho Inc.; 2010.

Return to footnote 6a referrer

Footnote 7

Abstral (fentanyl citrate sublingual tablets) [product monograph]. Montréal (QC) : Paladin Labs Inc.; 2011.

Return to footnote 7a referrer

Footnote 8

Onsolis (fentanyl citrate buccal soluble film) [product monograph]. Solna (Sweden): Meda AB; 2010.

Return to footnote 8a referrer

Footnote 9

Ozkardesler S, Gurpinar T, Akan M, et al. A possible perianesthetic serotonin syndrome related to intrathecal fentanyl. J Clin Anesth 2008; 20(2):143-5. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 9a referrer

Footnote 10

Gillman PK. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, opioid analgesics and serotonin toxicity. Br J Anaesth 2005;95(4):434-41. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 10a referrer

Footnote 11

Shanmugan G, Kent B, Alsaiwadi T, et al. Serotonin syndrome following cardiac surgery. Interact CardioVasc Thorac Surg 2008;7(4):656-7. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 11a referrer

Footnote 12

Rang ST, Field J, Irving C. Serotonin toxicity caused by an interaction between fentanyl and paroxetine. Can J Anaesth 2008;55(8):521-5. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 12a referrer

Footnote 13

Turkel SB, Nadala JG, Wincor MZ. Possible serotonin syndrome in association with 5-HT(3) antagonist agents. Psychosomatics 2001;42(3):258-60. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 13a referrer

Footnote 14

Ailawadhi S, Sung KW, Carlson LA, et al. Serotonin syndrome caused by interaction between citalopram and fentanyl. J Clin Pharm Ther 2007;32(2):199-202. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 14a referrer

Footnote 15

Reich M, Lefebvre-Kuntz D. [ Serotonergic antidepressants and opiate analgesics: a sometimes-painful association. A case report]. Encephale 2010;36[Suppl 2]:D119-23. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 15a referrer

Footnote 16

Altman CS, Jahangiri MF. Serotonin syndrome in the perioperative period. Anesth Analg 2010;110(2):526-8. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 16a referrer

Footnote 17

Alkhatib AA, Peterson KA, Tuteja AK. Serotonin syndrome as a complication of fentanyl sedation during esophagogastroduodenoscopy. Dig Dis Sci 2010;55(1):215-6. [PubMed]

Return to footnote 17a referrer

Quarterly Summary of health professional and consumer advisories

Health professional and consumer advisories posted on Health Canada's Web site: Nov. 23, 2011 - Feb. 27, 2012.
DateFootnote * Product Subject
Feb 27 Gilenya (fingolimod) Safety being reviewed by Health Canada
Feb 24 Miracle Mineral Solution and Miracle Mineral Supplement Updated list of Web sites selling the unauthorized products
Feb 23 Unauthorized health products Seizure of potentially dangerous products from The Love Shop retail outlets in Ontario
Feb 15 Miracle Mineral Solution and Miracle Mineral Supplement Risk of serious health problems
Feb 13 & 15 Caprelsa (vandetanib) Serious risk of abnormal heart rhythm
Feb 7 Non-invasive ventilation devices  Risk of being used as life-supporting ventilators
Jan 26 Doribax (doripenem for injection) Higher mortality rate and lower clinical cure rate during a comparative clinical trial
Jan 26 Velcade (bortezomib) Fatal if given intrathecally
Jan 25 & 30 Celexa (citalopram) Association with abnormal heart rhythms
Jan 19 Champix (varenicline tartrate) Updated safety information with respect to cardiovascular safety
Jan 19 Weight-loss health products Important safety reminder
Jan 18 & 23 Rasilez (aliskiren) and Rasilez HCT (aliskiren/hydrochlorothiazide) Potential risks of cardiovascular and renal adverse events in patients with type 2 diabetes
Jan 13 Duet TRS loading units Urgent recall: contraindication for thoracic use
Jan 13 Excedrin Extra Strength Caplets and Excedrin Tension Headache Caplets Recall: possible mixing of different products in the same bottle
Dec 29 Compliments Muscle and Back
Pain Relief Regular Strength
Labelling error may pose serious risks to children
Dec 23 Bivona Neonatal, Pediatric and Flextend Tracheostomy Tubes Urgent recall of certain lot numbers
Dec 22 & 23 EpiPen and EpiPen Jr.
Information on correct usage
Dec 22 Rasilez (aliskiren) Safety being reviewed by Health Canada
Dec 19 Bisphosphonates Small but increased risk of unusual fractures of thigh bone
Dec 5 & 8 Multaq (dronedarone) Important revisions to product monograph
Dec 5 Yasmin and Yaz (drospirenone) Updated information on increased risk of blood clots
Dec 2 & Jan 23 Unauthorized health products Updated list of products removed from sale in Burnaby and Richmond stores due to possible serious health risks
Dec 2 & 7 Avastin (bevacizumab) Cases of severe eye inflammation leading to blindness following use in the eye
Dec 1 Ursodiol (ursodeoxycholic acid, UDCA) High dose associated with serious liver side effects
Nov 30 Stiff One Hard 169 Recall: presence of undeclared prescription medication
Nov 30 & Dec 5 Sublinox (zolpidem tartrate) Association with complex sleep behaviours
Nov 29 Avastin (bevacizumab) Approval suspended for use in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer
Nov 23 to Feb 27 Foreign products 8 Foreign Product Alerts (FPAs) were posted on the Health Canada Web site during this period; FPAs are available online or upon request
*Date of issuance. This date may differ from the posting date on Health Canada's Web site.

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Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter

Health Canada
Marketed Health Products Directorate
Address Locator 0701D
Ottawa ON K1A 0K9
Telephone: 613-954-6522
Fax: 613-952-7738

Editorial Team
Patricia Carruthers-Czyzewski, BScPhm, MSc (Editor-in-Chief)
Christianne Scott, BPharm, MBA
Hoa Ly, BSc
Emir Al-Khalili, BA, BScPhm
Myriam Rivas, RPharm, BSc, MQA
Sophie Bourbonnais, BScPht

We thank the following members of the Expert Advisory Committee on the Vigilance of Health Products for their review of material for this issue: Colleen J. Metge, BSc(Pharm), PhD and Yola Moride, PhD, FISPE. We also thank Benjamin Pearson and Aleksandar Brezar, students in Health Sciences and Biopharmaceutical Sciences, respectively, for their participation in the production of the newsletter.

Your comments are important to us. Let us know what you think.

Reporting Adverse Reactions
Canada Vigilance Program
Telephone: 1-866-234-2345
Fax: 1-866-678-6789

© 2012 Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. This publication may be reproduced without permission provided the source is fully acknowledged. The use of this publication for advertising purposes is prohibited. Health Canada does not assume liability for the accuracy or authenticity of the information submitted in case reports.

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