Medication for Gallstones
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your healthcare provider if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications only as recommended or prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your healthcare provider.
This drug reduces the cholesterol content in the bile and bile stones. Ursodiol is not commonly used in the US, except in patients who are in a rapid weight loss program. The use of this medication is limited to patients who have small cholesterol stones, usually less than 1.5 centimeters (cm), and a functioning gallbladder. About 30%-50% of people treated with ursodiol will have recurrence of the gallstones within 10 years of treatment.
- Take with meals for best results.
- Take all the pills prescribed, even if you begin to feel better.
- Do not take this medication with aluminum-containing antacids, such as AlternaGEL or Maalox, because the aluminum may interfere with the action of ursodiol.
A possible side effect is mild diarrhea.
When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Severe abdominal pain, stomach pain, or severe nausea and vomiting may indicate that you have another medical problem or that your gallstones require a more aggressive type of treatment.
Only 15% of patients are appropriate candidates for this type of treatment. It may take months or years before all the stones dissolve. Ursodiol works only in those patients whose gallstones are made of cholesterol and works best when these stones are small and of the "floating" (high cholesterol) type. Gallstones recur in 50% of patients within five years.
Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:
- Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
- Do not stop taking them without consulting your healthcare provider.
- Don’t share them with anyone else.
- Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your healthcare provider.
- If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
- Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Adler DG, Baron TH, Davila RE, et al. ASGE guideline: the role of ERCP in diseases of the biliary tract and the pancreas. Gastrointest Endosc. 2005;62:1-8.
Ahmed A, Cheung RC, Keefe EB. Management of gallstones and their complications. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61:1673-1678.
Portincasa P, Moschetta A, Palasciano G. Cholesterol gallstone disease. Lancet. 2006;368:230-239.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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