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Pilocarpine

Generic Name: pilocarpine (oral) (PYE loe KAR peen)
Brand Name: Salagen

Medically reviewed on June 18, 2018

What is pilocarpine?

Pilocarpine affects the nervous system and increases saliva secretion in the mouth.

Pilocarpine is used to treat dry mouth caused by Sjogren's syndrome, or by radiation to treat head and neck cancer.

Pilocarpine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not use pilocarpine if you have narrow-angle glaucoma, or asthma that is untreated or uncontrolled.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use pilocarpine if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • untreated or uncontrolled asthma; or

  • narrow-angle glaucoma.

To make sure pilocarpine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether pilocarpine will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using pilocarpine.

It is not known whether pilocarpine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while using this medicine.

How should I take pilocarpine?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

You may take pilocarpine with or without food.

Drink plenty of liquids while you are taking pilocarpine. This medicine can cause increased sweating and you may get dehydrated easily.

Use pilocarpine regularly to get the most benefit. Get your prescription refilled before you run out of medicine completely.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of pilocarpine can be fatal at very high doses.

What should I avoid while taking pilocarpine?

pilocarpine may cause blurred vision, especially at night or in low light. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be able to see clearly.

Avoid becoming overheated during exercise and in hot weather. Pilocarpine can increase sweating and you may be more prone to dehydration.

Pilocarpine side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using pilocarpine and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • shortness of breath;

  • fast or slow heart rate;

  • severe headache, pounding in your neck or ears;

  • confusion, tremors; or

  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out.

Common side effects may include:

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

Pilocarpine dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Xerostomia:

Initial - Head and Neck cancer patients:
5 mg three times a day. Titrate upwards, not to exceed 10 mg per dose, to a maximum of 30 mg per day.

Sjögren's syndrome patients:
5 mg four times a day.

What other drugs will affect pilocarpine?

Other drugs may interact with pilocarpine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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