Also Known As: Phenobarbital, phenobarbitone, Luminal
Phenobarbital (INN) or phenobarbitone (former BAN) is a barbiturate, first marketed as Luminal by Friedr. Bayer et comp. It is the most widely used anticonvulsant worldwide, and the oldest still commonly used. It also has sedative and hypnotic properties but, as with other barbiturates, has been superseded by the benzodiazepines for these indications. The World Health Organization recommends its use as first-line for partial and generalized tonicâ€“clonic seizures (those formerly known as grand mal) in developing countries. It is a core medicine in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, which is a list of minimum medical needs for a basic health care system. In more affluent countries, it is no longer recommended as a first or second-line choice anticonvulsant for most seizure types, though it is still commonly used to treat neonatal seizures.
Phenobarbital (and phenobarbital sodium) is manufactured and supplied in various forms: in tablets of 15, 30, 60 and 100 mg (though not all are available in all countries: for example, in Australia only the 30 mg strength tablets are available); in an oral elixir (commonly 3 mg/mL in strength); and in a form for injection (as phenobarbital sodium - usually 200 mg/mL). The injectable form is used principally to control status epilepticus, while the oral forms are used for prophylactic and maintenance therapy. The dose range for epilepsy is 60â€“320 mg/day; its very long active half-life means that for some patients, doses do not have to be taken every day, particularly once the dose has been stabilised over a period of several weeks or months and seizures are effectively controlled. It is occasionally still used as a sedative/hypnotic in anxious or agitated patients who may be intolerant of or do not have access to benzodiazepines, neuroleptics and other, newer drugs. For this purpose phenobarbital has a lower dose range - around 30â€“120 mg/day; however this practice is uncommon in developed countries.