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ACTH Side Effects

Generic Name: corticotropin

Note: This page contains information about the side effects of corticotropin. Some of the dosage forms included on this document may not apply to the brand name ACTH.

For the Consumer

Applies to corticotropin: injection gel/jelly

In addition to its needed effects, some unwanted effects may be caused by corticotropin (the active ingredient contained in ACTH). In the event that any of these side effects do occur, they may require medical attention.

Major Side Effects

You should check with your doctor immediately if any of these side effects occur when taking corticotropin:

More common:
  • Backache
  • blurred vision
  • body aches or pain
  • chest pain
  • cough
  • difficulty with breathing
  • dizziness
  • ear congestion
  • earache
  • facial hair growth in females
  • fever or chills
  • fractures
  • full or round face, neck, or trunk
  • headache
  • increased thirst or urination
  • irritability
  • loss of sexual desire or ability
  • loss of voice
  • menstrual irregularities
  • muscle wasting
  • nasal congestion
  • nervousness
  • pounding in the ears
  • redness or swelling in the ear
  • runny nose
  • shortness of breath
  • slow or fast heartbeat
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • tightness in the chest
  • troubled breathing
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • wheezing
  • white patches in the mouth or throat or on the tongue
  • white patches with diaper rash
Less common:
  • Convulsions (seizures)
Incidence not known:
  • Accumulation of pus
  • bruising
  • bulging soft spot on the head of an infant
  • change in the ability to see colors, especially blue or yellow
  • cold, clammy skin
  • confusion
  • decreased range of motion
  • decreased urine output
  • dilated neck veins
  • extreme fatigue
  • eyeballs bulge out of eye sockets
  • fast, weak pulse
  • full or bloated feeling
  • heartburn
  • insomnia
  • irregular breathing
  • irregular heartbeat
  • joint pain
  • large, flat, blue, or purplish patches in the skin
  • lightheadedness
  • limp
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pressure in the stomach
  • severe headache
  • small red or purple spots on the skin
  • sweating
  • swelling of abdominal or stomach area
  • swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • swollen, red, or tender area of infection
  • trouble healing
  • weight gain
  • wheezing
Incidence not known-For adults only
  • Bloating
  • chills
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • coughing up blood
  • darkened urine
  • fast heartbeat
  • fever
  • headache
  • headache, sudden and severe
  • increased sweating
  • indigestion
  • loss of appetite
  • pain in the muscles
  • pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
  • redness of the face
  • skin rash
  • unusual weight loss
  • weakness
  • yellow eyes or skin
Incidence not known-For infants only
  • Decreased carbohydrate tolerance
  • hypokalemic alkalosis
  • reversible brain shrinkage

Minor Side Effects

Some of the side effects that can occur with corticotropin may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

More common:
  • Blemishes on the skin
  • diarrhea
  • pimples
Less common:
  • Increased or decreased appetite
Incidence not known:
  • Increased hair growth, especially on the face
  • menstrual changes
  • muscle weakness
Incidence not known-For adults only
  • Feeling of constant movement of self or surroundings
  • sensation of spinning
  • thinning of the skin

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to corticotropin: injectable powder for injection, injectable solution


Very Common (10% or more): Hypertension
Common (1% to 10%): Cardiac hypertrophy
Frequency not reported: Fluid retention
Postmarketing reports: Necrotizing angitis (adults only), congestive heart failure[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Acne
Common (1% to 10%): Rash
Postmarketing reports: Skin thinning (adults only), facial erythema, increased sweating (adults only)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Cushingoid
Common (1% to 10%): Cushingoid
Postmarketing reports: Decreased carbohydrate tolerance (infants only), hirsutism[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Diarrhea
Common (1% to 10%): Constipation, diarrhea, vomiting
Postmarketing reports: Pancreatitis (adults only), abdominal distention, ulcerative esophagitis[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Allergic responses presenting as dizziness, nausea, and shock (adult only).[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Increased appetite, decreased appetite, weight gain
Frequency not reported: Alteration in glucose tolerance
Postmarketing reports: Hypokalemic alkalosis (infants only)[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Muscle weakness, vertebral compression fractures (infants only)[Ref]

Nervous system

Very Common (10% to more): Convulsions
Common (1% to 10%): Convulsions
Postmarketing reports: Headache (adults only), vertigo (adults only), subdural hematoma, intracranial hemorrhage (adults only), reversible brain shrinkage (secondary to hypertension in infants only)[Ref]


Very Common (10% or more): Infection
Common (1% or 10%): Pyrexia, candidiasis, otitis media[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Irritability
Common (1% to 10%): Irritability
Frequency not reported: Behavioral and mood changes[Ref]


Common (1% or 10%): Nasal congestion, pneumonia, upper respiratory infections.[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Acthar (corticotropin)." Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Collegeville, PA.

Not all side effects for ACTH may be reported. You should always consult a doctor or healthcare professional for medical advice. Side effects can be reported to the FDA here.

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