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The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications only as recommended or prescribed by your doctor. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

This drug reduces cholesterol content in bile and bile stones. Ursodiol is not commonly used in the United States, except in patients who are in a rapid weight loss program. The use of this medication is limited to patients who have small cholesterol stones, usually less than 1.5 centimeters (cm), and a functioning gallbladder. About 30%-50% of people treated with ursodiol will have recurrence of gallstones within 10 years of treatment.

Special instructions:

  • Take with meals for best results.
  • Take all the pills prescribed, even if you begin to feel better.
  • Do not take this medication with aluminum-containing antacids, such as AlternaGEL or Maalox Advanced Regular Strength, because the aluminum may interfere with the action of ursodiol.

A possible side effect is mild diarrhea.

Severe abdominal pain, stomach pain, or severe nausea and vomiting may indicate that you have another medical problem or that your gallstones require a more aggressive type of treatment.

Only 15% of patients are appropriate candidates for this type of treatment. It may take months or years before all the stones dissolve. Ursodiol works only in those patients whose gallstones are made of cholesterol and works best when these stones are small and of the "floating" (high cholesterol) type. Gallstones recur in 50% of patients within five years.

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take your medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share your medicine.
  • Know what the results and side effects may be. Report them to your doctor if any occur.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed with other medications. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medication. This includes over-the-counter medicine and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
References:

Adler DG, Baron TH, et al. ASGE guideline: the role of ERCP in diseases of the biliary tract and the pancreas. Gastrointest Endosc. 2005;62:1-8.

Ahmed A, Cheung RC, et al. Management of gallstones and their complications. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61:1673-1678.

Portincasa P, Moschetta A, et al. Cholesterol gallstone disease. Lancet. 2006;368:230-239.

Portincasa P, Di Ciaula A, et al. Medicinal treatments of cholesterol gallstones: old, current and new perspectives. Curr Med Chem. 2009;16(12):1531-1542. Review.

3/1/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Maalox Total Relief and Maalox liquid products: medication use errors. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm200672.htm. Published February 17, 2010. Accessed March 2, 2010.

Last reviewed October 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.