1. About domperidone
Domperidone is an anti-sickness medicine. It helps you to stop feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting).
It can also be used to treat stomach pain if you're having end of life care (palliative care).
Domperidone is sometimes used to increase milk supply. Your doctor may prescribe it if you're having trouble breastfeeding but only if other things have not worked.
Domperidone comes as tablets or as a liquid that you swallow. It is available on prescription only.
It is also known by the brand name Motilium.
2. Key facts
- You usually take domperidone when you need it, up to 3 times a day.
- It works best if you take it before meals.
- The most common side effect of domperidone is a dry mouth.
- It is generally prescribed for a short time only (usually up to 1 week).
3. Who can and cannot take domperidone
Domperidone can be taken by most adults, and children aged 12 years and older.
It is sometimes prescribed for babies and younger children by a specialist doctor.
Domperidone is not suitable for some people.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist before taking this medicine if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to domperidone or any other medicine
- weigh less than 35kg
- have a condition that can cause a bowel obstruction, such as Crohn's disease or diverticulitis
- have recently had abdominal surgery, such as a hernia operation or caesarean section
- have ever had bleeding from your stomach or gut
- have a tumour on your pituitary gland
- have liver, kidney or heart problems, or an irregular heartbeat
Domperidone may not be suitable for people over the age of 60. This is because there's more risk of side effects.
4. How and when to take it
Always follow a doctor's instructions when taking domperidone.
Take it when you need it to help with your symptoms.
It's best to have domperidone before food. Take it 15 to 30 minutes before you have a meal or snack.
Tablets: take the tablet whole with a drink of water. Do not crush or chew it.
Liquid: the medicine comes with an oral syringe to help you measure your dose. If you do not have a syringe, ask a pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon, as this will not give you the right amount.
The usual dose for adults and children aged 12 years and older is one 10mg tablet (or 10ml of liquid).
You can take domperidone up to 3 times a day, if you need it. Space doses evenly throughout the day, at least 8 hours apart.
If you forget to take it
If you forget to take domperidone, take it as soon as you remember. If it's almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next one at the usual time.
Never take 2 doses at the same time. Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.
If you take too much
Taking too much domperidone can be dangerous.
If you accidentally take more than your prescribed dose, you may get a fast or irregular heartbeat.
If you need to go to A&E, do not drive yourself. Get someone else to drive you or call for an ambulance.
Take the domperidone packet, or the leaflet inside it, plus any remaining medicine with you.
5. Side effects
Like all medicines, domperidone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.
More than 1 in 100 people will get a dry mouth. This common side effect is usually mild and goes away by itself.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are rare.
Tell a doctor straightaway if:
- your muscles or eyes start moving in an unusual or uncontrolled way
- you have problems peeing
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:
- you have a seizure or fit
- you have a fast or irregular heartbeat
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to domperidone.
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:
- you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- you're wheezing
- you get tightness in the chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.
These are not all the side effects of domperidone. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. How to cope with side effects
What to do about:
- dry mouth – try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking a sugar-free sweet
7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Domperidone is not usually recommended in pregnancy.
Find out more about how domperidone can affect you and your baby during pregnancy from the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
Domperidone and breastfeeding
Domperidone is not usually recommended when breastfeeding, as it passes into breast milk in small amounts. Talk to a doctor, as other medicines might be better.
If your baby was premature, had a low birth weight or has health problems, speak to a doctor before taking any anti-sickness medicine.
Domperidone is sometimes used to increase milk supply. However, there is some evidence that it can give a baby an irregular heartbeat. Talk to a doctor about the benefits and possible risks of taking domperidone when breastfeeding.
If you take domperidone while breastfeeding and you notice anything unusual with your baby, such as sleeping more than usual, talk to a health visitor or doctor as soon as possible.
Non-urgent advice: Tell a doctor if you're:
- trying to get pregnant
8. Cautions with other medicines
Some medicines and domperidone can interfere with each other. This may increase your chance of having side effects.
Tell a doctor or pharmacist if you're taking:
- antidepressants or antipsychotic medicines
- antibiotics or medicines for fungal infections
- medicines for malaria
- medicines for HIV infection
- medicines for a heart condition or high blood pressure
- medicines for cancer, or having treatment for cancer
Is it safe to take with other anti-sickness medicines?
It's usually best to only take 1 type of medicine for feeling or being sick.
If domperidone does not work for you, speak to a doctor. They may want to recommend a different medicine.
Mixing domperidone with herbal remedies or supplements
Some herbal remedies can make your side effects worse. Speak to your pharmacist before taking any herbal medicines.
Tell a doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
9. Common questions
How does it work?
Domperidone works by blocking the messages that pass between your digestive system and your brain.
It causes the muscles at the entrance of your stomach to tighten and the muscles at the exit of your stomach to relax. This makes you less likely to be sick (vomit).
Domperidone also blocks messages between parts of your brain called the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) and the vomiting centre.
This stops you feeling sick (nauseous) and prevents you from vomiting.
How long does it take to work?
Domperidone should start to work in about 30 to 60 minutes.
How long will I take it for?
It is recommended that you take domperidone for the shortest possible time and at the lowest dose that works for you.
You will usually take it for up to a week.
This is because domperidone can cause an irregular heartbeat if you take it for longer or at a high dose.
Why is domperidone not usually recommended for children under the age of 12 years?
Recent research shows that domperidone does not actually help when babies or young children are feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting) due to a stomach bug.
This medicine has also been linked to heart problems in a small number of people.
For these reasons, domperidone is not usually recommended for children under the age of 12 years.
However, it is sometimes prescribed for babies and younger children to help with other types of nausea, vomiting and reflux.
How does it compare with similar medicines?
Domperidone belongs to a group of anti-sickness medicines called anti-emetics.
Anti-emetics work in a similar way to each other. However, domperidone is less likely to make you feel tired.
If domperidone is not working for you, ask a doctor or a pharmacist for advice. They may want to recommend a different medicine.
Can I drink alcohol with it?
It is best to avoid alcohol when taking domperidone.
Drinking alcohol can make side effects worse, such as sleepiness or an irregular heartbeat.
Is there any food or drink that I should avoid?
Apart from avoiding alcohol, you can eat and drink normally while taking domperidone.
It is best to take your medicine 15 to 30 minutes before meals.
Will it affect my contraception?
However, if domperidone is not working for you and you vomit, your contraceptive pills may not protect you from pregnancy.
Look at the pill packet to find out what to do.
Will it affect my fertility?
Domperidone does not affect male or female fertility.
Can I drive or ride a bike?
Do not drive a car or ride a bike if domperidone makes you sleepy, or if you have an irregular heartbeat caused by taking domperidone.
This may be more likely when you first start taking domperidone, but could happen at any time (for example, when starting another medicine).
It's an offence to drive a car if your ability to drive safely is affected.
It's your responsibility to decide if it's safe to drive. If you're in any doubt, do not drive.
GOV.UK has more information on the law on drugs and driving.
Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure whether it's safe for you to drive while taking domperidone.
Why is domperidone not available in the USA?
Domperidone has never been officially approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the USA.
In 2004 the FDA told pharmacies that were importing domperidone into the USA that they could no longer do so.
This is because taking domperidone can cause an irregular heartbeat.