Prochlorperazine is a medicine that is used to treat severe nausea and sickness (often caused by migraine or cancer treatment) and vertigo.
What is prochlorperazine?
Prochlorperazine is a prescription-only medicine that treats severe sickness and vertigo. It belongs to the group of medicines known as phenothiazines and is a form of tranquiliser - a medicine which reduces stress or anxiety and has a calming effect by acting on the chemical in the brain responsible for these emotions. This chemical is dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter which sends messages between cells in the brain. It regulates our mood and behaviour and can also control muscle movement. Sometimes the brain produces too much dopamine, which can cause psychological problems. It is also believed dopamine is responsible for the area of the brain which causes us to vomit. Prochlorperazine can block the dopamine receptors in the brain to produce a calming effect and reduce the desire to vomit.
When is prochlorperazine used?
Prochlorperazine has several different uses including to treat nausea and vomiting. Because of its strength, it is recommended that you take this medication in the lowest dose for the shortest time possible. This should be discussed with your doctor before starting a course of treatment. Prochlorperazine tablets are not recommended for children under the age of 12.
Nausea and vomiting:
Prochlorperazine is used for severe cases of nausea and vomiting when other anti-sickness medicines have not worked. It is often used to treat the sickness associated with migraines. However, this medicine is not a preventative treatment for migraines or severe headaches. There is an area of the brain that causes us to feel sick and vomit known as the vomiting centre. Within this area is the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) which contains the brain’s dopamine receptors. Too much dopamine can cause us to vomit, but prochlorperazine can prevent this. Prochlorperazine can also be used to treat the sickness that occurs due to some cancer treatments and drugs from chemotherapy treatment.
Vertigo: This is a feeling of severe dizziness where your environment appears to be spinning, and which can cause you to lose your balance. Vertigo can occur on its own, as a result of a migraine or due to Ménière’s disease, which is a condition of the inner ear that can make you feel dizzy, vomit and hear ringing in your ears. Prochlorperazine can help relieve the symptoms of vertigo.
Prochlorperazine tablets can also have a positive effect on controlling anxiety, but they are not usually used solely for this purpose.
Due to the risk of long-term effects, prochlorperazine tablets should only be used for no more than 12 weeks. They are prescribed in lower doses for nausea and vomiting and should only be taken on the advice of a doctor.
It should be noted that prochlorperazine tablets are a treatment for the above conditions but not a cure. If you suffer from any of these conditions, you should discuss whether a cure is available and how to manage the condition with your doctor. Before taking prochlorperazine tablets, you should tell your doctor if you have or have had:
- Urination problems;
- Heart disease;
- Low blood pressure;
- Intestinal blockage;
- Liver problems;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Breast cancer;
- Pheochromocytoma (an adrenal gland tumour);
- Brain tumour.
You should also tell your doctor if you are taking any other medicines, including herbal medicines.
How do you use prochlorperazine?
You should take the dose of prochlorperazine recommended by your doctor with a glass of water. Swallow the tablet whole and do not chew it. You can take this medicine with or without food. There is a form of this medication called prochlorperazine buccal which is used mainly to treat vomiting and nausea. This is not swallowed, but a tablet is placed between the upper lip and gum and it dissolves slowly over one-to-two hours. Ensure you are aware which form of prochlorperazine you have been prescribed and that you are taking it correctly.
If you forget to take a dose of prochlorperazine, do not take a double dose to make up for this but wait until the next dose is due and take the usual amount. It is important not to stop taking this medicine suddenly, even if you feel better as your symptoms may return. If you are stopping this medicine, you should do it gradually on the advice of a doctor.
Prochlorperazine tablets can irritate the skin so it is advisable to handle them as little as possible.
What dosages are there?
You should take the dose of prochlorperazine that has been recommended by your doctor. The dose will be based on the medical condition, age and severity of the condition. If taken for vomiting, nausea or vertigo, you are likely to be prescribed prochlorperazine for a period of weeks to take regularly. It is not recommended to take this medication for longer than that for these conditions. Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly without the advice of a doctor.
What are the side effects of prochlorperazine?
As with all medicines, there is the possibility of side effects when taking prochlorperazine. These can include:
- Mild constipation;
- Insomnia (inability to sleep);
- Dry mouth;
- Nasal congestion;
- Skin rashes;
- Erectile disfunction;
- Sensitivity to sunlight;
- Blood clots in the veins;
- High blood prolactin level (the hormone that produces milk), which can sometimes lead to breast enlargement and the production of breast milk in both women and men.
If you experience any of the above while taking this medication, you should speak to your doctor.
When should you not take prochlorperazine?
You should not take prochlorperazine tablets if you are allergic to any of the ingredients (see the packaging leaflet). They are not recommended for children under 12 years of age. Prochlorperazine should not be used for elderly people suffering from dementia (a condition that affects the brain, causing loss of memory, confusion and changes in behaviour) as there is an increased risk of death.
If you are pregnant and suffering severe sickness, you may be prescribed this medicine during the first trimester of your pregnancy, if it is considered this is likely to be safer for your baby than the condition you are being treated for. However, if you are prescribed prochlorperazine during the last trimester of your pregnancy, you should be aware that it can cause side effects for your baby after it is born. It is therefore very important to discuss this with your doctor so you can decide what is best for your individual situation.
If you are planning to become pregnant, you should see your doctor before you start trying to conceive if you are taking prochlorperazine tablets. It is not recommended to breastfeed while you are taking prochlorperazine as it can pass into the milk and may cause your baby to become drowsy or not feed correctly. However, in exceptional circumstances, a breastfeeding woman may be given a very short dose of prochlorperazine tablets to stop vomiting if a doctor considers it necessary.
Prochlorperazine can make you drowsy so you should not drive or operate machinery if this happens. You should not drink alcohol when taking prochlorperazine tablets.
Does prochlorperazine interact with other medication?
Some medicines may cause drowsiness, dizziness or you to feel faint if you take them when you take prochlorperazine tablets. Other interactions can also occur, so it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medication, including herbal medicines, before you begin to take prochlorperazine.
Where can you buy prochlorperazine?
Prochlorperazine tablets can only be prescribed by a doctor and are not available over-the-counter in a pharmacy.
Can I get prochlorperazine without a prescription?
No, you cannot get prochlorperazine tablets without a prescription.
Cunha, J.P. 30 November 2016. Prochlorperazine MALEATE TABLETS.
Marshall, H. Prochlorperazine (Stemetil): an antisickness and antipsychotic medicine. January 18, 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2019 from https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/brain-nervous-system/a7566/stemetil-prochlorperazine/
MedlinePlus. (N.D.) Retrieved 3 December 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682116.html
Package leaflet. Prochlorperazine 3 mg Buccal Tablets (PROCHLORPERAZINE MALEATE). April 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2019 from https://s3-eu-west- 1.amazonaws.com/docomimg2.s3.amazonaws.com/leaflets/en/patient_information_leaflet-4287-prochlorperazine-buc.-tabl.-3-mg-uk.pdf-1510756510.pdf
Prochlorperazine Maleate Tablets Side Effects Center. Retrieved 3 December 2019 from https://www.rxlist.com/prochlorperazine-maleate-tablets-side-effects-drug-center.htm