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Pentobarbital chemical structure

IUPAC name
CAS number
ATC code


Chemical formula {{{chemical_formula}}}
Molecular weight 226.1317
Bioavailability ?
Metabolism Hepatic
Elimination half-life 15-48 hours
Excretion Renal
Pregnancy category D (USA)
Legal status USA: Schedule II (oral and parenteral); Schedule III (rectal)
Routes of administration Oral, Intravenous, Intramuscular, Rectal; also Intraperitoneal & Intracardiac (for animal euthanasia)

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.[1] 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).[2]



Pentobarbital's FDA approved human uses include treatment of seizures and preoperative (and other) sedation; it is also approved as a short-term hypnotic.[3]

In France, it is used in the treatment of insomnia, and as a preanesthetic.[4]


Off-label uses of pentobarbital include reduction of intracranial pressure in Reye's syndrome, traumatic brain injury[1] and induction of coma in cerebral ischemia patients.[3]

Veterinary medicine

In veterinary medicine sodium pentobarbital—traded under names such as Sagatal—is used as an anaesthetic.[5] Pentobarbital is an ingredient in Equithesin.

Veterinary Euthanasia

It is used by itself, or more often in combination with complementary agents such as phenytoin, in commercial animal euthanasia[6] injectable solutions. Trade names include Euthasol, Euthatal, Beuthanasia-D and Fatal Plus.

Human Euthanasia

Pentobarbital has also been used for physician-assisted suicide. Pentobarbital was used for this purpose in the Northern Territory of Australia, prior to euthanasia becoming illegal. It is also commonly used in Oregon for physician assisted suicide. [7]


A pentobarbital suppository was cited in an October 2006 news article in as the cause of death of Marilyn Monroe.

The Beatles were accused of writing their 1966 hit Yellow Submarine while under the psychoactive effects of Nembutal, though band members denied the allegations.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

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!".


Pentobarbital DOJ.jpg

Pentobarbital undergoes first-pass metabolism in the liver and possibly the intestines.[8]

Drug Interactions

Administration of alcohol, opioids, antihistamines, other sedative-hypnotics, and other central nervous system depressants will additively increase the sedation caused by pentobarbital.[3]

Tricyclic antidepressants decrease serum levels of pentobarbital.

See also

References and End Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Pentobarbital. San Diego Reference Laboratory: Technical Help. URL accessed on 16 July, 2005.
  2. Lee C. Fosburgh (1997). Imagining in Time: From this point in time: Some memories of my part in the history of anesthesia -- John S. Lundy, MD. American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal 65 (4): 323-8. PMID 9281913.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Deglin, Judith Hopfer; April Hazard Vallerand [1988] (2004-06-01). Davis's Drug Guide for Nurses, 9th edition, 789, F. A. Davis Company. ISBN 978-0-8036-1154-2. URL accessed 2005-07-16.
  4. VIDAL (2001). PENTOBARBITAL SODIQUE. Banque de Données Automatisée sur les Médicaments. URL accessed on May 2, 2006.
  5. UBC Committee on Animal Care (2005). Euthanasia. SOP 009E1 - euthanasia - overdose with pentobarbital. The University of British Columbia. URL accessed on 4 October, 2005.
  6. Unknown (2003). ANESTHESIA AND ANALGESIA. Animal Use Protocols. University of Virginia. URL accessed on 4 October, 2005.
  7. Goodenough, Patrick Campaigners Rally Round Right-To-Die Woman.
  8. Knodell, R. G., Spector MH, Brooks DA, Keller FX, Kyner WT. (December 1980). Alterations in pentobarbital pharmacokinetics in response to parenteral and enteral alimentation in the rat. Gastroenterology 79 (6): 1211-6. PMID 6777235.

External links

Barbiturates edit

Allobarbital, Amobarbital, Aprobarbital, Barbexaclone, Barbital, Butabarbital, Butalbital, Butobarbital, Cyclobarbital, Ethallobarbital, Heptabarbital, Hexobarbital, Mephobarbital, Metharbital, Methohexital, Methylphenobarbital, Pentobarbital, Phenobarbital, Primidone, Proxibarbal, Reposal, Secobarbital, Talbutal, Thiobarbital, Thiopental, Vinbarbital, Vinylbital

Anticonvulsants edit


Template:Aromatic allylic alcohol anticonvulsants Template:Carboxamides |-


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Barbiturates edit

{Phenobarbital} {Methylphenobarbital} {Metharbital} {Barbexaclone}

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