Ursodiol falls under the category of gallstone dissolution agents. Its primary uses include dissolving gallstones in individuals who are either not willing or unable to undergo surgical removal of gallstones. This medication is also employed to prevent the development of gallstones in overweight individuals who are rapidly losing weight, and for the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis, which is an autoimmune liver disease.
Ursodiol operates by reducing the production of cholesterol and dissolving the cholesterol present in bile to impede stone formation. It also reduces toxic levels of bile acids that accumulate in primary biliary cirrhosis.
Uses and Dosage
Ursodiol is available in capsule and tablet form for oral administration. Typically, it is taken two or three times daily, with or without food, to treat gallstones and twice daily to prevent gallstones in individuals who are losing weight rapidly. For the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis, ursodiol tablets are usually taken two or four times daily with food. Take ursodiol precisely as directed, without taking more or less of it or more frequently than prescribed by a doctor.
If it is necessary to break the tablet for a particular dose, place the tablet on a flat surface with the scored section on the top, hold the tablet close to the scored part with thumbs, and apply gentle pressure to snap it into two parts. Do not chew the half tablet, but swallow it with water, since the tablet has a strong bitter taste. Store the other half tablet in a separate container from the whole tablets, and use the stored half tablet within 28 days.
It may take several months for this medication to take effect, and patients may need to take ursodiol for up to 2 years if they are using the capsules to dissolve gallstones.
Gallstones may not fully dissolve, and even if they do, they may recur within 5 years following successful treatment with ursodiol. Even if one feels well, do not discontinue taking ursodiol without consulting a doctor.
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention:
- cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, or other signs of infection
- frequent urination or pain when you urinate
- muscle pain
- hair loss
Inform your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any serious side effects:
- stomach pain
- swelling of the face, eyes, mouth, throat, tongue, lips, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
Prior to taking ursodiol, inform a physician or pharmacist about any known allergies to this medication, other bile acids, or any other allergies. Inactive ingredients present in the product may cause allergic reactions or other complications.
Before initiating treatment with this medication, patients should discuss their medical history with a physician or pharmacist, particularly any issues with gallbladder or bile duct problems, such as acute cholecystitis, cholangitis, biliary obstruction, gallstone pancreatitis, or biliary-gastrointestinal fistula. Patients with liver disease, such as ascites, variceal bleeding, or hepatic encephalopathy, should also disclose their condition.
Ursodiol may cause dizziness, and consuming alcohol or marijuana can intensify this effect. Do not drive, operate machinery, or perform any activity requiring alertness until it is safe to do so.
During pregnancy, this medication should only be used when absolutely necessary. Patients should discuss the benefits and risks with their doctor before taking it.
This medication can pass into breast milk. Patients should consult their physician before breastfeeding.
Form and Strength
Actigall is available in the following forms and strengths:
How do I know if Actigall is working?
Blood tests will have to be done every few months while you are taking this medicine to make sure that the gallstones are dissolving and your liver is working properly.
What should be avoided when taking Actigall?
Try to avoid eating foods that are high in calories or cholesterol.