pentobarbital n : a barbiturate (trade name Nembutal) used as a sedative and hypnotic and anti-spasmodic [syn: pentobarbital sodium, Nembutal, yellow jacket]
Pentobarbital is a short-acting barbiturate that is available as both a free acid and a sodium salt, the former of which is only slightly soluble in water and ethanol. One trade name for this drug is Nembutal, coined by Dr. John S. Lundy, who started using it in 1930, from the structural formula of the sodium salt—Na (sodium) + ethyl + methyl + butyl + al (common suffix for barbiturates).
ApprovedPentobarbital's FDA approved human uses include treatment of seizures and preoperative (and other) sedation; it is also approved as a short-term hypnotic.
In France and the Netherlands, it is no longer used in the treatment of insomnia, nor as a preanesthetic.
Unapproved/Investigational/Off-LabelOff-label uses of pentobarbital include reduction of intracranial pressure in Reye's syndrome, traumatic brain injury Pentobarbital is an ingredient in Equithesin.
Veterinary EuthanasiaIt is used by itself, or more often in combination with complementary agents such as phenytoin, in commercial animal euthanasia injectable solutions. Trade names include Euthasol, Euthatal, Beuthanasia-D, and Fatal Plus.
Human EuthanasiaIn the Netherlands, a pentobarbital elixer is used as an alternative for patients who wish to take the barbiturate needed for the lethal cocktail themself, instead of having it administered intravenously, in which case thiopenthal is used. Pentobarbital has no medical use anymore in the Netherlands, and is only used for euthanasia.
Pentobarbital has also been used for physician-assisted suicide. It is commonly used in Oregon for physician assisted suicide., and is also used by Dignitas (euthanasia group). Pentobarbital was also used for this purpose in the Northern Territory of Australia, prior to euthanasia becoming illegal in that region.
FolkloreA pentobarbital suppository was cited in an October 2006 news article in WorldNetDaily.com as the cause of death of Marilyn Monroe.
The Clash makes a reference to it in the song The Right Profile from the album London Calling in which the lyrics read "Nembutal numbs it all, but I prefer... alcohol!"
The song "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles is rumored to reference to Nembutal due to the color and shape of the capsules. However, Paul McCartney has denied this, stating that he had written the song as a children's tune.
MetabolismPentobarbital undergoes first-pass metabolism in the liver and possibly the intestines.
Drug InteractionsAdministration of alcohol, opioids, antihistamines, other sedative-hypnotics, and other central nervous system depressants will greatly increase the sedation caused by pentobarbital.
References and End Notes
pentobarbital in German: Pentobarbital
pentobarbital in Galician: Pentobarbital
pentobarbital in Japanese: ペントバルビタール
pentobarbital in Portuguese: Pentobarbital
pentobarbital in Russian: Пентобарбитал
pentobarbital in Finnish: Pentobarbitaali
pentobarbital in Swedish: Pentobarbital