Prokinetics: What You Should Know
by Nancy Brown
Prokinetics are class of medications that enhance motility for those who suffer from Gastroparesis and other slow motility diseases. They are prescribed to improve the nausea, vomiting and bloating symptoms that people with those diseases commonly suffer from.
Prokinetics work by increasing movement of the stomach and intestines, improving overall digestion. There is currently only one FDA approved prokinetic for Gastroparesis, though other prokinetics are prescribed off-label by doctors. Off-label drugs were developed for other purposes, but have been found to improve motility for some Gastroparesis patients. Below is a description of several prokinetics:
|Prokinetic||Requires Rx||Avail in US||Recommended Duration of Use||FDA Approved for GP|
|YES||YES||No more than 3 months unless otherwise approved by doctor||YES|
|YES||NO||Depends on medical condition||NO*|
|YES||YES||No more than 3 months unless otherwise approved by doctor||NO|
|YES||NO||Restricted usage for emergency only||NO|
*Domperidone is actually approved for Gastroparesis patients but doctors must obtain advanced approval from the FDA to prescribe it.
Metoclopramide (Brand names include Reglan, Metozolv ODT, and PCP 100) is the only FDA approved drug for Gastroparesis. It aids in digestion by causing stomach muscles to contract. Metoclopramide also decreases incidents of nausea and vomiting. Metoclopramide may cause tardive dyskinesia, a serious movement disorder. The risk of tardive dyskinesia increases if Metoclopramide is used for longer than 12 weeks. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this medication.
Domperidone (Brand name Motilium) is approved in Canada, Europe, Japan and other countries, but not in the US. Originally developed to enhance breast milk production in lactating women, the FDA did not approve Domperidone due to risk of cardiac arrhythmias or cardiac arrest. The FDA recognizes that Domperidone improves motility, nausea, and vomiting. Doctors must request FDA approval to prescribe and order Domperidone.
Erythromycin is used to treat and prevent a variety of bacterial infections. It speeds up motility, but its effectiveness reduces after several weeks of use. Intravenous Erythromycin used in a hospital setting is effective for patients with severe Gastroparesis. Lower doses of oral erythromycin improve Gastroparesis symptoms; unfortunately, side effects include stomach cramps and nausea.
Tegaserod (Brand name Zelnorm or Zelmac) is only available for emergency situations with approval by the FDA. Originally developed for treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (with diarrhea) or Chronic Idiopathic Constipation, Tegaserod increased stomach emptying and movement through the bowels. Due to FDA concerns with cardiovascular side effects, it was removed for use in 2007.
The following drugs are in use for Gastroparesis, but they are not available in the US: Levosulpiride, Mosapride Citrate, Itopride hydrochloride, and Pruclopride.
A clinical study has been completed in the US for Renzapride. This drug is currently being developed by EndoLogic LLC for distribution. Renzapride was tested for both gastroparesis and IBS-D.
Several other clinical trials are in process for evaluating drugs (beyond prokinetics) to treat Gastroparesis: Promethazine, VLY-686, Prucalopride, RQ-10 (Parkinson and Gastroparesis) and Lixisenatide. Please refer to https://ClinicalTrials.Gov and search for Gastroparesis for additional information on clinical trials.
Prokinetic medications may not be an option for all Gastroparesis patients. Side effects may be too severe or the prokinetic may interact with other medications the patient is prescribed. Gastroparesis patients often use prokinetics in combination with other treatment options or not at all. Gastroparesis patients should work with their doctor to determine the best treatment plan based on the severity of gastroparesis.
About the author:
Nancy Brown lives in Virginia with her husband of 38 years, Ed. They’re empty nesters and are enjoying retirement. Prior to retiring, Nancy was a Manager of Requirement Analysis at Navy Federal Credit Union.
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