A Guide to Tetrabenazine


If someone you know is suffering from jerky or spastic, involuntary movements, the prescription medication Tetrabenazine may be able to help. We put together this guide to help you determine if the prescription drug, Tetrabenazine may be the right treatment for you. 

Chorea, a neurological condition that is characterized by involuntary, unpredictable movements is a rare disorder that is sometimes caused by Huntington’s Disease. Huntington’s Disease is a rare, progressive disorder that affects the nerve cells in the brain, causing a deterioration of a person’s physical and mental functionalities. 

What is Tetrabenazine?

Tetrabenazine, which is also sold under the brand names Nitoman and Xenazine is a prescription medication used to treat conditions that cause hyperkinetic movements. Belonging to the class of medications known as vesicular monoamine transporter 3 (VMAT2) inhibitors, it helps suppress the unpredictable and uncontrollable movements caused by chorea, a symptom of Huntington’s Disease. Keep in mind that while it can treat the movement disorder, the drug itself is not a cure for Huntington’s Disease. 

How Does Tetrabenazine Work to Treat Chorea?

As a medication in the class of the vesicular monoamine transporter 3 (VMAT2) inhibitors, Tetrabenazine is a monoamine depletor. It works by reducing or suppressing certain natural substances in the brain including monoamines like dopamine and serotonin that affect nerve and muscle function, and in doing so can help treat the involuntary, spastic movements of chorea caused by Huntington’s Disease. 

How Do You Take Tetrabenazine?

It is advised that you consult with your doctor before starting any new prescription medication. Also, always be sure to take your medication in accordance with the recommendations of your doctor and the directions on the prescription label. 

Tetrabenazine is to be taken orally with or without food usually once a day when you wake up in the morning. As your doctor monitors the effects of the medication to evaluate how they are working for you, it is possible he or she will recommend adjusting your dose to 2 to 3 times a day over the span of a few weeks. It is advised that you gradually increase your dose, to prevent the occurrence of side effects. 

It is important that you take this medication regularly, as close to the same time each day to help ensure you get the best results. Let your doctor know if you don’t notice any improvement in your symptoms of uncontrolled, hyperkinetic movements or if your symptoms worsen.

What are Common Side Effects? 

Remember, if your doctor has prescribed you this medication, he or she has decided that the potential benefits that this drug can offer you are greater than the risk of its side effects. It is not common to experience severe or serious side effects from Tetrabenazine. 

Common side effects of Tetrabenazine include drowsiness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, consult with your doctor as soon as you can. Your doctor may decide to adjust your dose to decrease your side effects. As this medication can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, it is advised that after you get up from a sitting down or lying position, you do so slowly and carefully. 

It is possible that Tetrabenazine can cause side effects that appear like worsening symptoms of Huntington’s Disease. Your doctor will have to gauge whether or not your symptoms are due to side effects of the drug or the disease worsening, by monitoring and adjusting your dose as needed. 

Serious side effects of Tetrabenazine include changes in mental functioning or mood (such as depression or suicidal thoughts), Parkinson’s disease symptoms (such as shaking, tremors and loss of balance), or difficulty swallowing or restlessness. Let your doctor know immediately if you experience any of these severe side effects.

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