ursodiol (Actigall, Urso Forte, Urso 250)

  • Medical Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

woman with abdominal pain

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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/13/2015

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