Oxazepam is an orally available benzodiazepine used in the therapy of anxiety and acute alcohol withdrawal syndromes. As with most benzodiazepines, oxazepam therapy has not been associated with serum aminotransferase or alkaline phosphatase elevations, and clinically apparent liver injury from oxazepam has not been reported and must be very rare, if it occurs at all.
Oxazepam (ox az' e pam) is a benzodiazepine that is used largely in the therapy of anxiety and alcohol withdrawal states. The antianxiety (anxiolytic) activity of the benzodiazepines is mediated by their ability to enhance gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) mediated inhibition of synaptic transmission through binding to the GABA A receptor. Oxazepam was approved in the United States in 1965 and currently is still in use, but has been replaced in large part by other benzodiazepines with better pharmacokinetics and tolerance. Current indications are for management of anxiety disorders and acute alcohol withdrawal and it is considered particularly useful in older patients. Oxazepam is available in capsules or tablets of 10, 15 and 30 mg in several generic forms and formerly under the brand name Serax. The recommended oral dose for adults is 10 to15 mg three to four times daily. Somewhat higher doses are used for the severe anxiety of alcohol withdrawal states. The most common side effects of oxazepam are dose related and include drowsiness, lethargy, ataxia, dysarthria and dizziness. Tolerance develops to these side effects, but tolerance may also develop to the effects on anxiety.
Oxazepam, like other benzodiazepines, is rarely associated with serum ALT elevations, and clinically apparent liver injury from oxazepam is extremely rare, if it occurs at all. There have been no case reports of symptomatic, acute liver injury from oxazepam. Cases of clinically apparent liver injury have been reported with other benzodiazepines including alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, clonazepam, diazepam, flurazepam and triazolam. The clinical pattern of acute liver injury from benzodiazepines is typically cholestatic and mild-to-moderate in severity with a latency of 1 to 6 months. Fever and rash are uncommon as is autoantibody formation.
Likelihood score: E (Unlikely cause of clinically apparent liver injury).
Mechanism of Injury
Oxazepam is metabolized by the liver to inactive metabolites which are excreted in the urine. Liver injury from benzodiazepines is probably due to the toxic effects of a rarely produced intermediate metabolite.
Outcome and Management
The case reports of hepatic injury due to benzodiazepines were followed by prompt and complete recovery upon stopping the medication, without evidence of residual or chronic injury. No cases of acute liver failure or chronic liver injury due to oxazepam have been described. There is no information about cross reactivity with other benzodiazepines, but some degree of cross sensitivity may occur.
REPRESENTATIVE TRADE NAMES
Oxazepam – Generic, Serax®
Product labeling at DailyMed, National Library of Medicine, NIH
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References updated: 24 January 2017
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Chalasani N, Bonkovsky HL, Fontana R, Lee W, Stolz A, Talwalkar J, Reddy KR, et al.; United States Drug Induced Liver Injury Network. Features and outcomes of 899 patients with drug-induced liver injury: The DILIN Prospective Study. Gastroenterology 2015; 148: 1340-1352.e7. PubMed Citation (Among 899 cases of drug induced liver injury enrolled in a US prospective study between 2004 and 2013, no cases were attributed to oxazepam or any other benzodiazepine).
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