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Pentobarbital is a short-acting barbiturate that is effective as a sedative and hypnotic (but not as an anti-anxiety) agent and is usually given orally. It is prescribed more frequently for sleep induction than for sedation but, like similar agents, may lose its effectiveness by the second week of continued administration. NEMBUTAL Sodium is a short-acting barbiturate, chemically designated as sodium 5-ethyl-5-(1-methylbutyl) barbiturate.