FDA Drug Safety Podcast: FDA limits usage of Nizoral (ketoconazole) oral tablets due to potentially fatal liver injury and risk of drug interactions and adrenal gland problems

Listen to This Podcast

Welcome to the FDA Drug Safety Podcast for Healthcare Professionals from the Division of Drug Information. Today’s topic: FDA limits the usage of Nizoral (or ketoconazole) oral tablets due to potentially fatal liver injury and risk of drug interactions and adrenal gland problems.

On July 26th, 2013 the Food and Drug Administration issued a Drug Safety Communication notifying the public of several actions it is taking related to Nizoral (or ketoconazole) oral tablets, including limiting the drug’s use, warning that it can cause severe liver injuries and adrenal gland problems and advising that it can lead to harmful drug interactions with other medications. FDA has approved label changes and added a new Medication Guide to address these safety issues. As a result, Nizoral oral tablets should not be a first-line treatment for any fungal infection. Nizoral should be used for the treatment of certain fungal infections, known as endemic mycoses, only when alternative antifungal therapies are not available or tolerated. 

The topical formulations of Nizoral have not been associated with liver damage, adrenal problems, or drug interactions. These formulations include creams, shampoos, foams, and gels applied to the skin, unlike the Nizoral tablets, which are taken by mouth.

Nizoral tablets can cause liver injury, which may potentially result in liver transplantation or death.  FDA has revised the Boxed Warning, added a strong recommendation against its use (that’s a contraindication) in patients with liver disease, and included new recommendations for assessing and monitoring patients for liver toxicity.

Serious liver damage has occurred in patients receiving high doses of Nizoral for short periods of time as well as those receiving low doses for long periods. Some of these patients had no obvious risk factors for liver disease.  The liver injury is sometimes reversible upon stopping the drug, but that is not always possible. 

Nizoral tablets may cause adrenal insufficiency by decreasing the body’s production of hormones called corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are produced by the adrenal glands, which are small glands located on top of each kidney.  Corticosteroids affect the body’s balance of water, salts, and minerals.  Health care professionals should monitor adrenal function in patients taking Nizoral tablets who have existing adrenal problems or in patients who are under prolonged periods of stress such as those who have had a recent major surgery or who are under intensive care in the hospital.

Nizoral tablets may interact with other drugs a patient is taking and can result in serious and potentially life-threatening outcomes, such as heart rhythm problems. All medications that a patient is currently taking should be assessed for possible interactions with Nizoral tablets.

In summary, the drug label for Nizoral tablets has been updated to include the following information:

  • Limitation of the usage of Nizoral tablets by removing indications in which the risk outweighs the benefits.  The use of ketoconazole tablets in Candida and dermatophyte infections is no longer indicated. Nizoral tablets should be used only when other antifungal drugs are not available or tolerated by the patient.
  • Nizoral tablets are indicated only for the treatment of the following fungal infections: blastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, chromomycosis, and paracoccidioidomycosis in patients in whom other treatments have failed or who are intolerant to other therapies.
  • Nizoral tablets are not indicated for the treatment of fungal infections of the skin or nails.
  • A new contraindication that Nizoral tablets should not be used in patients with acute or chronic liver disease.
  • Updated information on the risk of liver injury, or hepatotoxicity, with new assessment and monitoring recommendations.
  • Updated information on drug interactions. 
  • And a warning regarding adrenal insufficiency with recommendations for monitoring populations at risk. 

FDA has also approved a new patient Medication Guide containing information on the potential risks associated with Nizoral tablets, which must be dispensed with every prescription for the drug.

On July 25, 2013, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency announced their negative risk-benefit assessment for oral ketoconazole-containing medicines used to treat infections caused by dermatophytes and yeasts and recommended suspensions of these medicines throughout the European Union.

In addition to the indications for treatment of infections caused by dermatophytes and Candida, the previous US drug label also included indications for the following serious fungal infections: blastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, chromomycosis, and paracoccidioidomycosis.   In the revised US drug label, indications for dermatophyte and Candida infections have been removed and the indications for treatment of blastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, chromomycosis, and paracoccidioidomycosis have been retained only for patients in whom other antifungal treatments have failed or are not tolerated.

FDA will continue to evaluate the safety of Nizoral tablets and will communicate with the public again if additional information becomes available.

At this time FDA recommends that healthcare professionals be aware of the following:

  • Nizoral tablets should be used only for the treatment of certain life-threatening mycoses when the potential benefits outweigh the risks and alternative therapeutic options are not available or tolerated.
  • Prompt recognition of liver injury is essential.  
    • Assess the liver status of the patient before starting oral ketoconazole, with baseline laboratory tests including alanine aminotransferase (or ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (or AST), total bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, prothrombin time, and international normalized ratio (or INR).
    • While the patient is taking oral ketoconazole, serum ALT should be monitored weekly for the duration of treatment.  If ALT values increase to a level above the upper limit of normal or 30 percent above baseline, or if the patient develops symptoms of abnormal liver function, ketoconazole treatment should be interrupted and a full set of liver tests should be obtained.  Liver tests should be repeated to ensure normalization of values.
    • Hepatotoxicity has been reported with restarting of oral ketoconazole.
  • Do not use Nizoral tablets in patients with underlying liver disease.
  • Avoid using other hepatotoxic drugs and alcohol while taking Nizoral tablets.
  • Review all concomitant medications for potential drug interactions with Nizoral tablets.
  • Adrenal function should be monitored in patients with adrenal insufficiency or with borderline adrenal function and in patients under prolonged periods of stress (major surgery, intensive care, etc.)
  • And adverse events involving Nizoral tablets should be reported to the FDA MedWatch program at www.fda.gov/medwatch.

Thank you for listening. The FDA is committed to keeping healthcare professionals informed of the latest safety information. A link to this communication, the complete Data Summary, Nizoral’s label, as well as the European Medicines Agency announcement can be found at www.fda.gov/DrugSafetyCommunications. If you have drug questions, you can reach us at druginfo@fda.hhs.gov.

And follow us on Twitter @FDA_Drug_Info for up to the minute important drug information.  Know the moment it happens. 

Contact FDA

Toll Free
(855) 543-3784, or
(301) 796-3400
Human Drug Information

Division of Drug Information (CDER)

Office of Communications

Feedback Form

10001 New Hampshire Avenue

Hillandale Building, 4th Floor

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Page Last Updated: 10/20/2015
Note: If you need help accessing information in different file formats, see Instructions for Downloading Viewers and Players.
Language Assistance Available: Español | 繁體中文 | Tiếng Việt | 한국어 | Tagalog | Русский | العربية | Kreyòl Ayisyen | Français | Polski | Português | Italiano | Deutsch | 日本語 | فارسی | English