Although signs and symptoms of ergotism rarely develop even after long term intermittent use of the rectally administered drug, care should be exercised to remain within the limits of recommended dosage.
Ergotism is manifested by intense arterial vasoconstriction, producing signs and symptoms of peripheral vascular ischemia. Ergotamine induces vasoconstriction by a direct action on vascular smooth muscle. In chronic intoxication with ergot derivatives, headache, intermittent claudication, muscle pains, numbness, coldness and pallor of the digits may occur. If the condition is allowed to progress untreated, gangrene can result.
While most cases of ergotism associated with ergotamine treatment result from frank overdosage, some cases have involved apparent hypersensitivity. There are few reports of ergotism among patients taking doses within the recommended limits or for brief periods of time. In rare instances, patients, particularly those who have used the medication indiscriminately over long periods of time, may display withdrawal symptoms consisting of rebound headache upon discontinuation of the drug.
Rare cases of a solitary rectal or anal ulcer have occurred from abuse of ergotamine suppositories usually in higher than recommended doses or with continual use at the recommended dose for many years. Spontaneous healing occurs within usually 4-8 weeks after drug withdrawal.
There are no studies on the placental transfer or teratogenicity of the combined products of ergotamine tartrate and caffeine. Caffeine is known to cross the placenta and has been shown to be teratogenic in animals. Ergotamine crosses the placenta in small amounts, although it does not appear to be embryotoxic in this quantity. However, prolonged vasoconstriction of the uterine vessels and/or increased myometrial tone leading to reduced myometrial and placental blood flow may have contributed to fetal growth retardation observed in animals. (see CONTRAINDICATIONS)
Ergotamine tartrate and caffeine is contraindicated in pregnancy due to the oxytocic effects of ergotamine. (see CONTRAINDICATIONS)
Labor And Delivery
Ergotamine tartrate and caffeine is contraindicated in labor and delivery due to its oxytocic effect which is maximal in the third trimester. (see CONTRAINDICATIONS)
Ergot drugs are known to inhibit prolactin but there are no reports of decreased lactation with ergotamine tartrate and caffeine. Ergotamine is excreted in breast milk and may cause symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, weak pulse and unstable blood pressure in nursing infants. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from ergotamine tartrate and caffeine, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.
Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.