Generic Name: pilocarpine (pye-loe-KAR-peen)
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 15, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Dental Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Cholinergic
Uses for pilocarpine
Pilocarpine tablets are used to treat dryness of the mouth and throat caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva that may occur after radiation treatment for cancer of the head and neck or in patients with Sjogren's syndrome. Pilocarpine may help you speak without having to sip liquids. It may also help with chewing, tasting, and swallowing. Pilocarpine may reduce your need for other oral comfort agents, such as hard candy, sugarless gum, or artificial saliva agents.
Pilocarpine may also be used to treat dryness of the eyes caused by Sjogren's syndrome
Pilocarpine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using pilocarpine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For pilocarpine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to pilocarpine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Studies on pilocarpine have been done only in adult patients and there is no specific information comparing use of pilocarpine in children with use in other age groups.
Pilocarpine has been tested and has not been shown to cause different side effects or problems in older people than it does in younger adults.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking pilocarpine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using pilocarpine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of pilocarpine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems, or
- Gallbladder problems or
- Glaucoma, angle closure, or
- Heart or blood vessel disease or
- Iritis (inflammation of the iris [colored part] of the eye) or
- Kidney problems or
- Mental problems or
- Peptic ulcer disease, acute—Pilocarpine may make the condition worse
- Retinal detachment, tendency for, or
- Retinal disease—Pilocarpine may increase the risk of a detached retina
Proper use of pilocarpine
Take pilocarpine only as directed. Do not take it more often and do not take a larger dose than directed. To do so may increase the chance of side effects.
It is important that you visit your dentist regularly even though pilocarpine may make your dry mouth feel better. Having a dry mouth condition makes you more likely to have dental and other mouth problems.
The dose of pilocarpine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of pilocarpine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (tablets):
- For dryness of eyes:
- Adults—5 milligrams (mg) three or four times a day.
- For dryness of mouth and throat:
- Adults—5milligrams (mg) three or four times a day.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For dryness of eyes:
If you miss a dose of pilocarpine, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions while using pilocarpine
Pilocarpine may cause difficulty in reading or other vision problems, especially at night. It may also cause some people to become dizzy or lightheaded. Make sure you know how you react to pilocarpine before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert or able to see well. If these reactions are especially bothersome, check with your doctor.
Pilocarpine may cause you to sweat more than is usual. If you do, it is important that you drink extra liquids to offset this sweating so you do not lose too much fluid and become dehydrated. Check with your doctor if you are not sure how much extra liquid to drink or if you cannot drink as much liquid as you should.
Pilocarpine side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
Symptoms of overdose
- Chest pain
- diarrhea (continuing or severe)
- fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat (continuing or severe)
- headache (continuing or severe)
- nausea or vomiting (continuing or severe)
- shortness of breath or troubled breathing
- stomach cramps or pain
- tiredness or weakness (continuing or severe)
- trembling or shaking (continuing or severe)
- trouble seeing (continuing or severe)
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- feeling of warmth or heat
- flushing or redness of skin especially on face and neck
- increased need to urinate
- joint pain
- muscle aches and pains
- passing urine more often
- runny nose
- unusual tiredness or weakness
Less common or rare
- fast heartbeat
- holding more body water
- swelling of face, fingers, ankles, or feet
- trembling or shaking
- trouble swallowing
- trouble seeing
- unusual weak feeling
- voice change
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
More about pilocarpine
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Images
- Drug Interactions
- Compare Alternatives
- Pricing & Coupons
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- 9 Reviews
- Drug class: cholinergic agonists
Other brands: Salagen