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Tetrabenazine Side Effects

In Summary

Commonly reported side effects of tetrabenazine include: drowsiness, sedation, bradykinesia, muscle rigidity, hypertonia, exacerbation of depression, depression, akathisia, and restlessness. Other side effects include: dysphagia, dizziness, and anxiety. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.

For the Consumer

Applies to tetrabenazine: oral tablet

As well as its needed effects, tetrabenazine may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

Severity: Major

If any of the following side effects occur while taking tetrabenazine, check with your doctor immediately:

More common:
  • Body aches or pain
  • chills
  • cough
  • difficulty in breathing
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • discouragement
  • drowsiness
  • ear congestion
  • fear or nervousness
  • feeling sad or empty
  • fever
  • headache
  • inability to sit still
  • irritability
  • lack of appetite
  • loss of balance control
  • loss of interest or pleasure
  • loss of voice
  • mask-like face
  • nasal congestion
  • need to keep moving
  • relaxed and calm
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • shuffling walk
  • sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
  • sleeplessness
  • slow movement or reflexes
  • slurred speech
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • stiffness of arms and legs
  • tic-like (jerky) movements of the head, face, mouth, and neck
  • tiredness
  • trembling and shaking of fingers and hands
  • trouble concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • trouble with balance
  • unable to sleep
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
Less common:
  • Burning while urinating
  • changes in patterns and rhythms of speech
  • cough producing mucus
  • difficult or painful urination
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in chest
  • trouble in speaking
  • trouble in walking
  • wheezing

If any of the following symptoms of overdose occur while taking tetrabenazine, get emergency help immediately:

Symptoms of overdose:
  • Blurred vision
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position suddenly
  • fixed position of the eye
  • inability to move eyes
  • increased blinking or spasms of the eyelid
  • mood or mental changes
  • nausea and vomiting
  • seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • shakiness in legs, arms, hands, or feet
  • sticking out of tongue
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking of hands or feet
  • uncontrolled twisting movements of neck, trunk, arms, or legs
  • unusual facial expressions

Severity: Minor

Some tetrabenazine side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

More common:
  • Bruising
  • large, flat, blue, or purplish patches in the skin
Less common:
  • Decreased appetite

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to tetrabenazine: oral tablet


Psychiatric side effects have included sedation, somnolence, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability, and obsessive reaction.[Ref]

Nervous system

Nervous system side effects have included akathisia, balance difficulty, Parkinsonism, bradykinesia, dizziness, dysarthria, and unsteady gait.[Ref]


Other side effects have included fatigue, falls, and ecchymosis.[Ref]


Respiratory side effects have included upper respiratory tract infection, shortness of breath, and bronchitis.[Ref]


Genitourinary side effects have included dysuria.[Ref]


Gastrointestinal side effects have included nausea and vomiting.[Ref]


Cardiovascular side effects have included hypotension.[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Xenazine (tetrabenazine)." Prestwick Pharmaceuticals Inc, Washington DC, VA.

2. Kenney C, Hunter C, Jankovic J "Long-term tolerability of tetrabenazine in the treatment of hyperkinetic movement disorders." Mov Disord 22 (2007): 193-7

3. Schreiber W, Krieg JC, Eichhorn T "Reversal of tetrabenazine induced depression by selective noradrenaline (norepinephrine) reuptake inhibition." J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 67 (1999): 550

4. Canadian Pharmacists Association "e-CPS. Available from: URL:"

5. Bruneau MA, Lesperance P, Chouinard S "Catastrophic reactions induced by tetrabenazine." Can J Psychiatry 47 (2002): 683

It is possible that some side effects of tetrabenazine may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.