Ursodiol is used to dissolve gallstones in patients who do not want surgery or cannot have surgery to remove gallstones. Ursodiol is also used to prevent the formation of gallstones in overweight patients who are losing weight very quickly. Ursodiol is a bile acid, a substance naturally produced by the body that is stored in the gallbladder. It works by decreasing the production of cholesterol and by dissolving the cholesterol in bile so that it cannot form stones.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Ursodiol comes as a capsule to take by mouth. It is usually taken two or three times a day to treat gallstones and two times a day to prevent gallstones in patients who are losing weight quickly. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take ursodiol exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
This drug must be taken for months to have an effect. You may need to take ursodiol for up to 2 years. Your gallstones may not completely dissolve, and even if your gallstones do dissolve you may have gallstones again within 5 years after successful treatment with ursodiol. Continue to take ursodiol even if you feel well. Do not stop taking ursodiol without talking to your doctor.
Before taking ursodiol,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to ursodiol, bile acids, or any other drugs.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially antacids that contain aluminum (Amphojel, Gaviscon, Maalox, Mylanta, others), cholestyramine (LoCHOLEST, Prevalite, Questran), clofibrate (Atromid-S), colestipol (Colestid), medications that lower lipid or cholesterol levels, medications that contain estrogen (including birth control pills), and vitamins and herbal products.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had disease of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or bile duct.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking ursodiol, call your doctor.
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
Side effects from ursodiol can occur. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- upset stomach
- sore throat
- runny nose
- back pain
- muscle and joint pain
- hair loss
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- frequent urination or pain when you urinate
- cough with fever
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at Web Site] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order blood tests to check your liver function every few months while you take ursodiol. You will also have a type of x-ray called ultrasound imaging to see how your gallstones are responding to ursodiol.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.
Last Reviewed: September 1, 2010.