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Medication for Gallstones

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.

Prescription Medications

Over-the-Counter Medications

Prescription Medications

Bile Acids

  • Ursodeoxycholic acid
  • Chenodeoxycholic acid

Bile acids are only used to dissolve cholesterol gallstones when a person with cholesterol stones has a serious medical condition that prevents surgery. It may take months or years before all the stones dissolve completely.

Note: Do not take ursodeoxycholic acid with aluminum-containing antacids, such as AlternaGEL or Maalox Advanced Regular Strength, because the aluminum may interfere with the action of ursodeoxycholic acid.

A possible side effect is mild diarrhea.

Pain Medications

  • Diclofenac
  • Ketorolac

These medications are prescription NSAIDs used to relieve pain caused by gallstones.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness

Over-the-Counter Medications    TOP

  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to control pain

When to Contact Your Doctor

Severe abdominal pain, stomach pain, or severe nausea and vomiting may be a sign that you have another medical problem or that your gallstones require a different treatment.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.

References:

Gallstones. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/gallstones. Accessed September 1, 2017.
Gallstones. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114033/Gallstones. Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed September 1, 2017.
Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digesrive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones. Updated November 2013. Accessed September 1, 2017.
McVeigh G, Dobinson Evans E, Dwerryhouse S, et al. Gallstone disease: diagnosis and management. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg188/chapter/Introduction. Updated October 2014.
Portincasa P, Di Ciaula A, de Bari O, Garruti G, Palmieri VO, Wang DQ. Management of gallstones and its related complications. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016;10(1):93-112.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 9/1/2017

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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