GENERIC NAME: ursodiol
BRAND NAME: Actigall, Urso Forte, Urso 250
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Ursodiol is a naturally-occurring bile acid that is made by the liver in humans and is secreted in small quantities into bile. It is used to dissolve and prevent cholesterol gallstones and to treat primary biliary cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. Ursodiol blocks the enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol and thereby decreases production of cholesterol by the liver and the amount of cholesterol in bile. It also reduces the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine. By decreasing the concentration of cholesterol in bile, ursodiol prevents the formation and promotes the dissolution of cholesterol-containing gallstones. The mechanism by which it acts in primary biliary cirrhosis is not clear. The FDA approved ursodiol in December 1987.
PRESCRIBED FOR: Ursodiol is used for dissolving cholesterol gallstones and treating primary biliary cirrhosis. It also is used for preventing gallstones in obese patients who are losing weight rapidly. It does not dissolve gallstones that are composed of pigment rather than cholesterol. Ursodiol must be used for one or more years, and 50% of patients who have successful dissolution of their gallstones will have the gallstones return within five years. The likelihood of having successful dissolution of gallstones is low if partial dissolution is not seen within 12 months of starting treatment.
SIDE EFFECTS: The most common side effects are:
Serious allergic reactions and reduced concentration of white blood cells also have occurred.
Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Need help identifying pills and medications?
Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.