Efficacy of clonidine versus phenobarbital in reducing neonatal morphine sulfate therapy days for neonatal abstinence syndrome. A prospective randomized clinical trial

J Perinatol. 2013 Dec;33(12):954-9. doi: 10.1038/jp.2013.95. Epub 2013 Aug 15.


Objective: To compare the efficacy of clonidine versus phenobarbital in reducing morphine sulfate treatment days for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Study design: Prospective, non-blinded, block randomized trial at a single level III NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Eligible infants were treated with a combination of medications as per protocol. Primary outcome was treatment days with morphine sulfate. Secondary outcomes were the mean total morphine sulfate dose, outpatient phenobarbital days, adverse events and treatment failures.

Results: A total of 82 infants were eligible, of which 68 were randomized with 34 infants in each study group. Adjusting for covariates phenobarbital as compared with clonidine had shorter morphine sulfate treatment days (-4.6, 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.3, -8.9; P=0.037) with no difference in average morphine sulfate total dose (1.1 mg kg(-1), 95% CI: -0.1, 2.4; P=0.069). Post-discharge phenobarbital was continued for an average of 3.8 months (range 1 to 8 months). No other significant differences were noted.

Conclusion: Phenobarbital as adjunct had clinically nonsignificant shorter inpatient but significant overall longer therapy time as compared with clonidine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Clonidine / administration & dosage
  • Clonidine / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Morphine / administration & dosage*
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine
  • Clonidine
  • Phenobarbital