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Nembuta Pentobarbital is a short-acting barbiturate that is effective as a sedative and hypnotic (but not as an anti-anxiety) agent and is usually given orally. It is prescribed more frequently for sleep induction than for sedation but, like similar agents may lose its effectiveness by the second week of continued administration. (From AMA Drug Evaluations Annual, 1994, p236)/p>

Pentobarbital (US English) or pentobarbitone (UK English) is a short-acting barbiturate. Pentobarbital can occur as both a free acid and as salts of elements such as sodium and calcium. The free acid is only slightly soluble in water and ethanol.

One brand name for this drug is Nembutal, coined by John S. Lundy, who started using it in 1930, from the structural formula of the sodium salt—Na (sodium) + ethyl + methyl + butyl + al (common suffix for barbiturates).

Drug Description

NEMBUTAL® Sodium Solution
(pentobarbital sodium) Injection, USP



The barbiturates are nonselective central nervous system depressants which are primarily used as sedative hypnotics and also anticonvulsants in subhypnotic doses. The barbiturates and their sodium salts are subject to control under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (See Drug Abuse and Dependence“ section).

The sodium salts of amobarbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, and secobarbital are available as sterile parenteral solutions.

Barbiturates are substituted pyrimidine derivatives in which the basic structure common to these drugs is barbituric acid, a substance which has no central nervous system (CNS) activity. CNS activity is obtained by substituting alkyl, alkenyl, or aryl groups on the pyrimidine ring.

NEMBUTAL Sodium Solution (pentobarbital sodium injection) is a sterile solution for intravenous or intramuscular injection. Each mL contains pentobarbital sodium 50 mg, in a vehicle of propylene glycol, 40%, alcohol, 10% and water for injection, to volume. The pH is adjusted to approximately 9.5 with hydrochloric acid and/or sodium hydroxide.

NEMBUTAL (pentobarbital) Sodium is a short-acting barbiturate, chemically designated as sodium 5-ethyl-5-(1-methylbutyl) barbiturate. The structural formula for pentobarbital sodium is:

NEMBUTAL® (Pentobarbital Sodium) Structural Formula Illustration

The sodium salt occurs as a white, slightly bitter powder which is freely soluble in water and alcohol but practically insoluble in benzene and ether.




  1. Sedatives.
  2. Hypnotics, for the short-term treatment of insomnia, since they appear to lose their effectiveness for sleep induction and sleep maintenance after 2 weeks (See CLINCAL PHARMACOLOGY“ section).
  3. Preanesthetics.
  4. Anticonvulsant, in anesthetic doses, in the emergency control of certain acute convulsive episodes, e.g., those associated with status epilepticuscholeraeclampsiameningitistetanus, and toxic reactions to strychnine or local anesthetics.


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Dosages of barbiturates must be individualized with full knowledge of their particular characteristics and recommended rate of administration. Factors of consideration are the patient’s age, weight, and condition. Parenteral routes should be used only when oral administration is impossible or impractical.

Intramuscular Administration: IM injection of the sodium salts of barbiturates should be made deeply into a large muscle, and a volume of 5 mL should not be exceeded at any one site because of possible tissue irritation. After IM injection of a hypnotic dose, the patient’s vital signs should be monitored. The usual adult dosage of NEMBUTAL (pentobarbital) Sodium Solution is 150 to 200 mg as a single IM injection; the recommended pediatric dosage ranges from 2 to 6 mg/kg as a single IM injection not to exceed 100 mg.

Intravenous Administration: NEMBUTAL (pentobarbital) Sodium Solution should not be admixed with any other medication or solution. IV injection is restricted to conditions in which other routes are not feasible, either because the patient is unconscious (as in cerebral hemorrhage, eclampsia, or status epilepticus), or because the patient resists (as in delirium), or because prompt action is imperative. Slow IV injection is essential, and patients should be carefully observed during administration. This requires that blood pressurerespiration, and cardiac function be maintained, vital signs be recorded, and equipment for resuscitation and artificial ventilation be available. The rate of IV injection should not exceed 50 mg/min for pentobarbital sodium.

There is no average intravenous dose of NEMBUTAL Sodium Solution (pentobarbital sodium injection) that can be relied on to produce similar effects in different patients. The possibility of overdose and respiratory depression is remote when the drug is injected slowly in fractional doses.

A commonly used initial dose for the 70 kg adult is 100 mg. Proportional reduction in dosage should be made for pediatric or debilitated patients. At least one minute is necessary to determine the full effect of intravenous pentobarbital. If necessary, additional small increments of the drug may be given up to a total of from 200 to 500 mg for normal adults.

Anticonvulsant use: In convulsive states, dosage of NEMBUTAL (pentobarbital) Sodium Solution should be kept to a minimum to avoid compounding the depression which may follow convulsions. The injection must be made slowly with due regard to the time required for the drug to penetrate the blood-brain barrier.

Special patient population: Dosage should be reduced in the elderly or debilitated because these patients may be more sensitive to barbiturates. Dosage should be reduced for patients with impaired renal function or hepatic disease.

Inspection: Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration, whenever solution containers permit. Solutions for injection showing evidence of precipitation should not be used


Sodium Solution (pentobarbital sodium injection, USP) is available in the following sizes:

20-mL multiple-dose vial, 1 g per vial (NDC 67386-501-52); and 50-mL multiple-dose vial, 2.5 g per vial (NDC 67386-501-55).

Each mL contains:

Pentobarbital Sodium, derivative of barbituric acid…………………………………50 mg
Propylene glycol…………………………………………………………………………….40% v/v
Alcohol ………………………………………………………………………………………………10%
Water for Injection………………………………………………………………………………….qs (pH adjusted to approximately 9.5 with hydrochloric acid and/or sodium hydroxide.)

Vial stoppers are latex free.

Exposure of pharmaceutical products to heat should be minimized. Avoid excessive heat. Protect from freezing. It is recommended that the product be stored at 20-25 C (68-77 F), however, brief excursions are permitted between 15-30 C (59-86 F). See USP Controlled Room Temperature.

Manufactured by: Hospira, Inc. Lake Forest, Illinois 60045, U.S.A. For: Ovation Pharmaceuticals Inc, Deerfield, Illinois, U.S.A. 60015. FDA Rev date: 5/10/2002


The following adverse reactions and their incidence were compiled from surveillance of thousands of hospitalized patients. Because such patients may be less aware of certain of the milder adverse effects of barbiturates, the incidence of these reactions may be somewhat higher in fully ambulatory patients.

More than 1 in 100 patients. The most common adverse reaction estimated to occur at a rate of 1 to 3 patients per 100 is: Nervous System: Somnolence.

Less than 1 in 100 patients. Adverse reactions estimated to occur at a rate of less than 1 in 100 patients listed below, grouped by organ system, and by decreasing order of occurrence are:

Nervous system: Agitation, confusion, hyperkinesia, ataxiaCNS depression, nightmares, nervousness, psychiatric disturbance, hallucinations, insomniaanxiety, dizziness, thinking abnormality.


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