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ATIVAN (lorazepam) Toxicology

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Acute Toxicity: Oral. LD50s ranged from 1850-5010 mg/kg in mice to 5000 mg/kg in rats and 2000 mg/kg in dogs. The intraperitoneal LD50s were 700 mg/kg in rats and mice. In newborn rats and mice, intragastric LD50 values were 200 and 250 mg/kg respectively.

Signs exhibited during acute toxicity testing included moderate to marked sedation, shortness of breath, paralysis of hind legs, loss of righting reflex and convulsions. Acute respiratory depression was noted as the mode of death.

Injectable. The acute toxicity of lorazepam in adult mice and rats were determined to be:


In beagle dogs, the approximate LD50 for intravenous lorazepam was 50 mg/kg (equivalent to 10 mL/kg). The highest intramuscular dose of lorazepam that, because of its volume, could be given to dogs was 25 mg/kg (equivalent to 5 mL/kg). The toxicity of injectable lorazepam in all three species seemed due almost entirely to the vehicle employed.

Long-Term Toxicity: Oral. Lorazepam was administered in the diet to rats in a number of studies extending for periods of 4 to 82 weeks at doses ranging from 14.5 to 400 mg/kg/day. In the long-term studies, decreased food consumption and body weight gain were observed at the higher dose levels, while at lower dose levels weight gain tended to be increased relative to controls. Transient, dose-related sedation and ataxia also occurred, and convulsions were noted, particularly following drug withdrawal. The only gross pathological finding was esophageal dilatation, which was observed in a number of animals at different dose levels. This condition also occurred with diazepam, and the significance of this finding is at present unknown.

Increased liver, kidney, thyroid, adrenal and testicular weights, as well as centrilobular hypertrophy of the liver, cloudy swelling and loss of glycogen were observed in drug-treated animals. At the highest dose levels, changes in the nuclei of the hypertrophied liver cells also occurred. In one study, the colloid follicles of the thyroid were lined with tall cells and were reported to be increased in a dose-related manner. Effects on blood chemistry included increases in serum protein and cholesterase levels and a decrease in serum alkaline phosphatase. These changes were observed mostly at the higher dose levels and were more marked in females. Three oral studies were conducted in dogs, ranging from 6 to 52 weeks in duration at doses of up to 480 mg/kg/day. A high incidence of emesis occurred in the early stages of the studies. Most drug treated dogs exhibited the following signs: sedation, ataxia, tremors, restlessness, excitement, apprehension, salivation, panting, vocalization, muscle weakness and depression; of these only sedation persisted. Polydipsia was also observed. There were some increases in spleen, liver and testicular weight, and, at the highest dose, serum alkaline phosphatase and hematocrit values were elevated. Increased platelet and cholesterol values were also noted in the long-term study.

Injectable. In two studies in adult rats, lorazepam was administered either intravenously for ten days or intramuscularly for 33 to 37 days. Food consumption and body weight gain were little affected.

Most animals were sedated to some extent, and even ataxic at the high doses. Statistically significant differences to hematologic values between treated and control animals of both studies were within normal limits. With the possible exception of decreases in serum glucose in the second study, allserum chemical differences were small and considered biologically unimportant. Ophthalmoscope examinations made in both studies revealed no ocular abnormalities.

Some organ weights of lorazepam-treated animals differed significantly from those of control animals, but there was no consistent pattern to the variations.

Histopathologic examinations at the end of both studies revealed marked tissue reactions at the injection sites of rats treated with either lorazepam or vehicle alone. The only other pathological change thought to be related to treatment was an unusual degree of extramedullary splenic hematopoiesis, a condition confined chiefly to high-dose animals of Study 2. There were no accompanying changes in bone marrow or lymphoid tissues.

Purebred beagle dogs received daily intramuscular injections of 2.5, 5.0 or 10.0 mg/kg of lorazepam for 33-34 days. Their behaviour was only mildly and occasionally affected; appetite and mean body weight changes were similar in treated and untreated dogs. The drug-treated animals drank more water. There were episodes of emesis, and occasionally some stools were loose. Injection site sores developed on drug-treated and vehicle control dogs. Electrocardiograms taken near the study's conclusion showed slight increases in heart rate of vehicle control and lorazepam-treated animals. Alterations in several hematologic parameters in lorazepam-treated and vehicle control dogs were attributed to loss of blood and inflammatory reactions at injection sites. Statistical analysis of group mean blood chemical values showed several significant differences in mid and high-dose lorazepam dogs and those given the vehicle only. With the possible exception of elevated cholesterol, SGPT, and SGOT values, these differences were small and believed to be of no biological importance. The elevated SGOT levels were attributed to injection site inflammation. While some changes were suggestive of liver involvement, no histological alterations to that organ were discovered. Marked inflammatory injection site reactions were found on all dogs treated with lorazepam or its vehicle. Splenic hematopoiesis occurred in varying degrees among drug-treated and vehicle control animals. Hypercellularity of the bone marrow was discovered in four lorazepam-treated dogs and two vehicle control animals. It is likely this resulted from injection site stress and blood loss.

Reproductive Studies: Oral. A number of reproductive studies, covering various stages of the reproductive cycle, were carried out in rats, rabbits and mice. Lorazepam was administered orally in doses of up to 50 mg/kg/day. The observed effects in drug-treated groups of all three species included decreased maternal weight gain, increased resorptions, increased incidence of complete litter loss, decreased litter size, increased number of stillborn, increased neonatal mortality and decreased fetal body weight. Major and minor malformations, including cleft palate, hindlimb malrotation, extra 13th ribs, gastroschisis and major skull deficiency, were noted in rabbit and mouse experiments; some of these were qualitatively similar and/or dose related, and possibly drug induced.

Developmental Neurotoxicity: Nonclinical research has shown that administration of anesthetic and sedation drugs that block N-methyl-D-aspartate (NDMA) receptors and/or potentiate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity can increase neuronal cell death in the brain and result in long term deficits in cognition and behavior of juvenile animals when administered during the period of peak brain development. Based on comparisons across nonclinical species, the window of vulnerability of the brain to these effects is believed to correlate with human exposures in the third trimester of pregnancy through the first year of life, but may extend to approximately 3 years of age. While there is limited information of this effect with lorazepam, since the mechanism of action includes potentiation of GABA activity, a similar effect may occur. The relevance of these nonclinical findings to human use is unknown.

Injectable. Lorazepam, intravenously administered, was studied in rats and rabbits for its possible impact on reproduction and fetal development. Injectable lorazepam was associated to some extent with the number of resorptions, litter sizes and weights in both species, but these effects were neither consistent nor dose related.

In rats and rabbits, injectable lorazepam was not teratogenic.

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