Short-acting beta-agonists

  • Procedure started
  • Under evaluation
  • PRAC recommendation
  • CMDh position
  • European Commission final decision
Current status:
Position provided by CMDh

Overview


Restrictions on use of short-acting beta-agonists in obstetric indications – CMDh endorses PRAC recommendations

The Coordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedures – Human (CMDh) has endorsed by consensus new recommendations to restrict the use of medicines called 'short-acting beta-agonists'. These medicines should no longer be used in oral or suppository forms in obstetric indications (for the care of pregnant women), such as for suppressing premature labour or excessive labour contractions. However, injectable forms of these medicines can still be given for short-term obstetric use under specific conditions.

These recommendations follow a review by the European Medicines Agency's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), which looked into the known risk of cardiovascular side effects (problems affecting the heart and blood vessels) with high doses of short-acting beta-agonists when used as tocolytics (medicines that suppress labour contractions).

The PRAC concluded that there was a risk of serious cardiovascular side effects to both the mother and unborn baby when high-dose short-acting beta-agonists are used in obstetric indications, with the data suggesting these mostly occur with prolonged use. Given the cardiovascular risk and the very limited data on the effectiveness of the oral and suppository forms of these medicines, the PRAC concluded that their benefit-risk balance is not favourable and these medicines should no longer be used in obstetric indications.

In addition to oral medicines and suppositories, this review also covered injectable short-acting beta-agonists used as tocolytics. The available data showed that injectable forms are effective at supressing labour contractions in the short term (up to 48 hours). This timeframe can allow healthcare professionals to take other measures known to improve the health of the baby around the time of birth. Therefore, the PRAC concluded that the benefits of injectable forms of these medicines continue to outweigh their risks when used under specific conditions: these medicines should only be used to suppress premature labour for up to 48 hours, between the 22nd and the 37th weeks of pregnancy and under specialist supervision with continuous monitoring of the mother and the unborn baby. In countries where injectable forms are also authorised for external cephalic version (a method for moving the baby into the right position for birth) and emergency use in specific conditions, the PRAC recommended that they remain authorised in these indications. It proposed revising their prescribing information, with reinforced warnings on the cardiovascular risks.

As the PRAC recommendations have been endorsed by consensus by the CMDh, they will now be implemented directly in all Member States, according to an agreed timetable. Healthcare professionals will be informed in writing of the updated recommendations. Oral and suppository formulations which are only authorised in obstetric indications will have their marketing authorisations revoked and shall be removed from the market by the Marketing Authorisation Holders by 25 November 2013 at the latest.


Information to patients

  • Because of a risk of problems affecting the heart and circulation to both the mother and unborn baby with high-dose short-acting beta-agonists, these medicines must not be used by mouth or as suppositories to suppress premature labour in pregnant women.
  • These medicines can still be given intravenously (into a vein) to suppress premature labour, but their use is limited to a maximum of 48 hours, and only in women between the 22nd and the 37th weeks of pregnancy.
  • If you are given these medicines for premature labour in this way, your doctor will monitor you and your baby during treatment and stop treatment if there are any signs of heart problems.
  • Although these medicines are also used for the treatment of asthma, they are usually given at lower doses for this condition; if you are being treated with short-acting beta-agonists and have any questions or concerns about your treatment, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Information to healthcare professionals

  • High-dose short-acting beta-agonists are associated with a risk of serious adverse cardiovascular events to both the mother and the fetus, particularly when used for a prolonged period of time.
  • Given the identified cardiovascular adverse reaction profile and the very limited data supporting the benefits of oral forms and suppositories as short or long-term tocolytics, these formulations should no longer be used in any obstetric indication.
  • Parenteral short-acting beta-agonists are effective in the short-term and they can still be used in all authorised obstetric indications (inhibition of premature labour, external cephalic version, emergency use in specified conditions). However, their use should be limited to pregnant women between 22 and 37 weeks of gestation and women receiving these medicines should be kept under specialist supervision for the duration of treatment, which is limited to a maximum of 48 hours.
  • Parenteral short-acting beta-agonists should not be used in women with a history of heart disease or significant risk factors for heart disease or when prolongation of the pregnancy is hazardous to mother or fetus.

These recommendations follow a review of available cardiovascular safety data on the medicines fenoterol, hexoprenaline, isoxsuprine, ritodrine, salbutamol and terbutaline when used in obstetric indications. The reviewed data originated from clinical studies, post-marketing reports and the published literature.

Key facts

About this medicine
Approved name
Short-acting beta-agonists
International non-proprietary name (INN) or common name
terbutaline, salbutamol, hexoprenaline, ritodrine, fenoterol, isoxsuprine
Class
-
About this procedure
Current status
Position provided by CMDh
Reference number
EMEA/H/A-31/1347
Type
Article 31 referrals

This type of referral is triggered when the interest of the Union is involved, following concerns relating to the quality, safety or efficacy of a medicine or a class of medicines.

Decision making model
PRAC-CMDh
Authorisation model
Nationally authorised product(s)
Key dates and outcomes
Procedure start date
27/11/2012
PRAC recommendation date
05/09/2013
CHMP opinion/CMDh position date
23/10/2013
Outcome
Risk minimisation measures

All documents

Procedure started

Recommendation provided by Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee

Position provided by CMDh

  • List item

    Restrictions on use of short-acting beta-agonists in obstetric indications – CMDh endorses PRAC recommendations (PDF/79.72 KB)


    First published: 25/10/2013
    Last updated: 25/10/2013
    EMA/565019/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex II (PDF/72.21 KB)


    First published: 07/11/2013
    Last updated: 07/11/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex I (PDF/226.83 KB)


    First published: 07/11/2013
    Last updated: 07/11/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex IV (PDF/23.56 KB)


    First published: 07/11/2013
    Last updated: 07/11/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex V (PDF/22.67 KB)


    First published: 07/11/2013
    Last updated: 07/11/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex V


    First published: 07/11/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex IV


    First published: 07/11/2013

  • List item

    Restrictions on use of short-acting beta-agonists in obstetric indications – CMDh endorses PRAC recommendations (PDF/79.72 KB)


    First published: 25/10/2013
    Last updated: 25/10/2013
    EMA/565019/2013

  • List item

    Short-acting beta-agonists Article-31 referral - Annex III (PDF/99.98 KB)


    First published: 25/10/2013
    Last updated: 07/11/2013

  • Document description

    • Annex I - List of the medicines affected by the referral
    • Annex II - Scientific conclusions of the CHMP or CMDh
    • Annex III - Changes to the summary of product characteristics, labelling or package leaflet - available when the CHMP or CMDh recommends changes to the product information. Also includes conditions for lifting of suspensions, if applicable
    • Annex IV - Conditions of the marketing authorisation - available when the CHMP or CMDh recommends other measures to be taken for the marketing authorisation such as safety measures or additional studies
    • Notification - A letter from a Member State, the European Commission or a marketing-authorisation holder requesting the initiation of a referral procedure
    • Rationale for triggering - Background provided by the party triggering the referral explaining the issues leading to the initiation of the procedure
    • PRAC list of questions - Questions agreed by the PRAC requesting further information to evaluate the issues identified
    • PRAC timetable - Timeframe agreed by the PRAC to receive information, assess the issues and adopt a recommendation
    • PRAC / CHMP or CMDh assessment report - The assessment and conclusions of the PRAC and CHMP or CMDh on the issues investigated

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