Betahistine

Betahistine is used to ease the symptoms of Ménière's disease.

The usual dose is one tablet three times daily.

Where possible, take the tablets with or after a meal.

Type of medicine Histamine analogue
Used for To ease the symptoms of Ménière's disease in adults
Also called Serc®
Available as Tablets

Ménière's disease is a condition of the inner ear. It typically causes attacks of vertigo (a feeling of spinning), loss of hearing, and tinnitus (noises in the ear). The attacks can vary in severity, and in how often they occur. Treatment can help to ease and prevent symptoms.

Betahistine is thought to work by improving the flow of blood in your inner ear. This reduces a build-up of pressure and eases your symptoms.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking betahistine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have ever had a stomach ulcer.
  • If you have asthma.
  • If you have phaeochromocytoma (a tumour on your adrenal gland).
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about betahistine and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take betahistine exactly as your doctor tells you to. It is usual to take one (16 mg) tablet three times daily at first. Once your symptoms are under control, your doctor may then reduce your dose to one (8 mg) tablet three times daily. Your dose and the strength of the tablets prescribed for you will both be on the label of your pack to remind you. Where possible, take betahistine tablets with something to eat or straight after a meal.
  • Try to take the tablets at the same times each day, as this will help you to remember to take them.
  • If you forget to take a dose, do not worry, just remember to take the next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • If you are a driver, you must stop driving when Ménière's disease is diagnosed. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will allow driving again when your symptoms are well controlled. Taking betahistine will not affect your ability to drive.
  • If you take betahistine every day it is unlikely to stop all attacks, but it may reduce the number and/or the severity of your attacks. Your doctor may advise a trial of betahistine for 6-12 months to see if it helps to reduce your symptoms. If it does, it can then be continued.
  • Some people with Ménière's disease claim their symptoms improve by a low-salt diet, regular exercise, stopping smoking, and cutting out caffeine and alcohol. Although there is little evidence to prove that diet and lifestyle can help, these may be worth trying.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with betahistine. Betahistine may not be as effective if it is taken with a preparation containing an antihistamine. It also may interfere with the way antihistamines work.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common betahistine side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sick, indigestion Remember to take betahistine after eating a meal
Other possible but less common side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Headache Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Abdominal bloating or discomfort Taking the tablets after a meal should help. If it continues or becomes troublesome, speak with your doctor
Allergic skin reactions such as itching and rash Use a moisturiser to soothe your skin. If the rash continues or is severe, contact your doctor as soon as possible

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, SercĀ®; Abbott Healthcare Products Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated August 2012.
  • British National Formulary; 64th Edition (Sep 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Last Checked:
24/01/2013
Document ID:
3850 (v23)
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