Pharmacokinetics of Phenobarbital in Microenema Via Macy Catheter Versus Suppository

Y. W.Francis Lam, Ansom Lam, Brad Macy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Context The oral route is compromised for nearly all patients approaching death. When agitation, seizures, or other intractable symptoms occur, a quick, discreet, comfortable, and effective alternate route for medication delivery that is easy to administer in the home setting is highly desirable. Objectives To characterize the early absorption profile, variability, and comfort of phenobarbital given in microenema suspensions delivered via the Macy Catheter® (MC) vs. the same dose given via suppository. Methods This was a randomized, open-label, crossover study comparing the early absorption profile of equal doses of phenobarbital administered rectally in three treatment phases: phenobarbital suppository and two different microenemas with phenobarbital tablets crushed and suspended in 6 mL (MC-6) or 20 mL (MC-20) of tap water. Results Mean plasma phenobarbital concentrations at 10 minutes were 12× higher for MC-20 and 8× higher for MC-6 compared to suppository. Concentrations achieved in 30 minutes via MC-20 took almost three hours to achieve with suppository. Mean AUC values were higher for MC-20 and MC-6 (82% and 46%, respectively) vs. suppository (P < 0.05). There was less variability in absorption for MC-20 and MC-6 (1.4- to 1.9-fold difference) compared to a 4.4-fold difference via suppository. MC administrations were reported as "not uncomfortable" compared to suppositories, which were reported as "mildly uncomfortable" (P < 0.05). Conclusion These results suggest phenobarbital oral tablets crushed and suspended in water and administered via the MC is superior to suppository in delivering the medication reliably and rapidly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1001
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Rectal administration
  • hospice care
  • phenobarbital
  • suppository

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • General Nursing


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