The Facts on Tetrabenazine and Tardive Dyskinesia

Tetrabenazine Tardive Dyskinesia

In this week’s blog we are going to talk about Tetrabenzine for Tardive Dyskinesia, what these are, and how QuickRx can help guide you through the process of managing your symptoms. 

Are you experiencing involuntary body movements such as lip smacking, tongue protrusion, or facial grimacing? These may be signs of Tardive Dyskinesia (TD), a serious neurological disorder that can result from the long-term use of certain neuroleptic medications.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider right away. We are here to support you and provide any information or resources you may need. Let’s dive into this week’s topic. 

What is Tetrabenazine and Why is it Prescribed?

Among other afflictions like Chorea associated with Huntington’s Disease (a genetic disorder that affects the brain and nervous system), Tetrabenazine is prescribed for Tardive Dyskinesia (TD). Oftentimes, Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) is a side effect of neuroleptic medications. Tetrabenazine comes in tablet form and the tablets are available in strengths of 12.5mg and 25mg.

Tetrabenazine is usually taken orally, with or without food. The dose and frequency of the medication depend on the individual’s condition and response to treatment. It is important to follow the instructions of your prescribing doctor carefully and not to adjust the dosage or stop taking the medication without consulting your doctor first

How Does Tetrabenazine Work?

Tetrabenazine belongs to a class of medications called vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) inhibitors. VMAT2 is a protein that is responsible for transporting dopamine and other monoamine neurotransmitters from the nerve terminal to the synaptic vesicles, where they are stored until needed.
By inhibiting VMAT2, Tetrabenazine reduces the amount of dopamine and other monoamine neurotransmitters that are released into the synapse, which can help reduce the involuntary movements associated with Huntington’s Disease and Tardive Dyskinesia.

How Much Does Tetrabenazine Cost and is there Copay Assistance Available?

While we pride ourselves on having the best cash prices and copays around, this medication can still be costly. Your total cost will of course depend upon a lot of contributing factors which are unique to your situation such as your prescribed strength and quantity, your insurance provider, and deductible status.  

If you would like to know what your particular prescription would cost before insurance we have this handy price calculator on our website for you. Yes, there is copay assistance available. However, Tetrabenazine copay assistance programs can be hard to navigate on your own. Our dedicated team will handle the process for you. In some instances, we’ve even been able to get copays down to ZERO! If you would like more information on Tetrabenazine copay assistance click the button at the bottom of this article. 

What are Neuroleptic Medications?

Neuroleptic medications are a class of drugs commonly used to treat mental health disorders, particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and certain types of depression. While these medications can be effective in reducing symptoms, they also come with a range of side effects. 

Some examples of neuroleptics that have been linked to Tardive Dyskinesia include haloperidol, chlorpromazine, and risperidone. These types of drugs work by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for regulating mood, behavior, and perception. 

There are two main types of neuroleptic medications: typical (first-generation) and atypical (second-generation) antipsychotics. Typical antipsychotics, such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol, were developed in the 1950s and 1960s and work primarily by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain. Atypical antipsychotics, such as clozapine, risperidone, and olanzapine, were developed in the 1990s and work by targeting both dopamine and serotonin receptors. 

While neuroleptic medications can be effective in reducing the symptoms of certain mental health disorders, they also come with a range of potential side effects, which result in the need for medications like Tetrabenazine. Common side effects of typical antipsychotics include weight gain, sedation, dry mouth, constipation, and blurred vision. Atypical antipsychotics may also cause weight gain, as well as increased blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

In addition to these physical side effects, neuroleptic medications can also have cognitive and emotional side effects. Many people who take these drugs report feeling emotionally numb or apathetic, and may experience difficulty with memory, concentration, and motivation. Some people may also develop involuntary movements, such as tremors, Tardive Dyskinesia, or muscle stiffness. 

Despite these potential side effects, neuroleptic medications can be an important tool in the treatment of mental health disorders, particularly for people with severe symptoms that do not respond to other forms of therapy. In short, often these are life-saving medications in myriad ways.

It is important, however, for individuals taking these medications to work closely with their healthcare provider to monitor for potential side effects, like Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) and adjust their medication as needed or talk to their doctor about potential need for additional medications such as Tetrabenazine.  

What is Tardive Dyskinesia (TD)? 

Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements of the face, tongue, and limbs that occur as a side effect of certain medications. The movements can range from mild to severe and can be painful and embarrassing for those who experience them.  

What are the Causes of Tardive Dyskinesia? 

Tardive Dyskinesia is primarily caused by the long-term use of antipsychotic medications, which are commonly used to treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. These medications work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, which can lead to a range of side effects, including Tardive Dyskinesia.  

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the regulation of movement, among other functions, and medications that affect dopamine can lead to changes in the brain that result in TD. The risk of developing TD increases with the duration of medication use and the total dose of medication received.

Other medications that have been associated with Tardive Dyskinesia include metoclopramide, used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, and some medications used to treat nausea and vomiting. 

What are the Symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia? 

The symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia can vary depending on the severity of the disorder. Some of the most common symptoms include: 

  1. Involuntary movements of the mouth, such as lip smacking, tongue protrusion, and jaw clenching.
  2. Involuntary movements of the limbs, such as arm and leg twitching or jerking.
  3. Involuntary movements of the trunk, such as rocking or swaying.
  4. Muscle stiffness and rigidity.
  5. Difficulty speaking and swallowing.
  6. Facial grimacing and blinking. 

What are the Treatment Options for Tardive Dyskinesia? 

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Tardive Dyskinesia. However, there are several treatment options, like Tetrabenazine, available that can help manage the symptoms of the disorder.  

One of the most effective treatments for Tardive Dyskinesia is to stop or reduce the use of the medications that are causing the symptoms. However, this is not always possible or desirable, as these medications may be necessary for treating the underlying psychiatric disorder. Essentially, by doing this a person could be swapping one side effect for a whole host of unwanted symptoms. This is where Tetrabenazine comes in. Tetrabenazine works to ease the symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia and provide a better quality of life.

It is incredibly important to note that a patient should never stop, change dosage, or switch any medication suddenly and without first consulting their prescriber to talk about Tetrabenazine and other treatment options 

Do I have other options aside from Tetrabenazine? 

Other treatment options include switching to a different medication that does not cause Tardive Dyskinesia, or reducing the dose of the medication to minimize the risk of developing the disorder. However, this may not be a feasible option for everyone. And again, never do this without consulting your prescribing doctor.  

In some cases, Tetrabenazine may be used to treat the symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia. This medication works by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain, which can help reduce the involuntary movements. In other more mild cases, the use of Botulinum Toxin (commonly known as Botox injections) can be used to aid in temporarily limiting the movement of certain affected muscles, it is used most often for facial muscles.  

In severe cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be considered as a treatment option. This involves implanting electrodes in the brain that deliver electrical impulses to specific areas, which can help reduce the symptoms of Tardive Dyskinesia.  

While effective, your doctor may wish to explore Tetrabenazine and/or other treatments as a first option before referral for this type of treatment. It is important to work closely with your healthcare providers and to follow their recommended course of therapy in the order it is presented.  

Tardive Dyskinesia is a complex disorder that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. If you are taking medications that have been associated with Tardive Dyskinesia, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical attention if you notice any signs of the disorder. With proper treatment using Tetrabenazine or another approved form of therapy and management, many people with Tardive Dyskinesia are able to lead full and active lives.

At QuickRx Specialty Pharmacy, we want to ensure that our patients are informed about the potential side effects of their medications and their options for management. 

So What are the Side Effects of Tetrabenazine? 

Like all medications, Tetrabenazine can cause side effects. The most common side effects of Tetrabenazine include drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other less common but more serious side effects may include depression, suicidal thoughts, and changes in mood or behavior. If any of these more severe side effects occur, it is important to contact the prescribing doctor immediately. 

It is also important to note that Tetrabenazine may interact with other medications, including antidepressants and certain antipsychotic medications. Therefore, it is important to inform the prescribing doctor of all medications being taken, including over-the-counter medications and supplements, before starting Tetrabenazine. Aside from doing this, the most important safety step you can take for yourself is to make sure you have all of your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy. This way, as a final fail-safe, any potential interactions will be caught immediately by a pharmacist. 

Tetrabenazine is an effective medication for treating the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease and Tardive Dyskinesia. While it can cause side effects, most are mild and can be managed with careful monitoring and communication with your prescribing doctor. With proper use and monitoring, Tetrabenazine can really help improve the quality of life for individuals with Huntington’s disease and/or Tardive Dyskinesia. Need help affording your Tetrabenazine? Click the button below to see options for prescription copay assistance.  

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