Pilocarpine tablets

Take pilocarpine tablets with a meal. Swallow them whole with a large glass of water.

You may sweat more than usual. Drink plenty of water so that you do not become dehydrated.

The tablets may reduce your ability to see clearly in poor lighting. Do not drive at night if you are affected.

Type of medicine Cholinergic agent
Used for Dry mouth after radiotherapy
Dry mouth and dry eyes in Sjögren's syndrome
Also called Salagen®
Available as Tablets

Pilocarpine is used to relieve dry mouth (sometimes called xerostomia) brought on by radiotherapy to the head or neck. It can also be used to relieve some of the symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome.

Sjögren's syndrome can cause various symptoms, the most common being dry eyes and dry mouth. These symptoms are due to lack of secretions from glands in your body. Pilocarpine tablets stimulate your glands to produce more saliva and tears.

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 pilocarpine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have a heart condition or blood vessel disease.
  • If you have kidney or liver problems.
  • If you have asthma or any other breathing problems.
  • If you have a stomach ulcer, gallstones, or a problem with your bile duct.
  • If you have an eye problem such as glaucoma (increased pressure in your eye), or iritis (inflammation of the iris of your eye).
  • If you get confused easily.
  • If you are taking or using 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 pilocarpine and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Your doctor will tell you how often to take pilocarpine tablets - take them exactly as your doctor directs. As a guide, if you are taking them following radiotherapy, it is likely you will be prescribed one tablet three times daily. Take your doses with or straight after meals. Make sure you take your last dose of the day with your evening meal. If you are taking pilocarpine because you have Sjögren's syndrome, the usual dose is one tablet four times daily (with each of your three main meals and at bedtime). Your doctor may prescribe more than this if it is appropriate for you.
  • Every time you take a tablet, drink a large glass of water with it. This is to prevent you from becoming dehydrated, as pilocarpine may make you sweat more than usual.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take one as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose. If it is almost time to take your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • If after taking pilocarpine for two or three months, you feel that your condition has not greatly improved, you should let your doctor know about this. Pilocarpine will not be effective if your glands cannot be sufficiently stimulated.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking pilocarpine.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with these tablets.

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 and very common pilocarpine side-effects - some may affect more than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine What can I do if I experience this?
Headache. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller.
Increased sweating and flushing. Take care not to become overheated during exercise or hot weather. Drink several large glasses of water every day.
Blurred vision, difficulty seeing in poor lighting. Do not drive or use tools or machines if you cannot see clearly.
Diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain. Try to eat a well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids.
Indigestion, feeling or being sick. Eat simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals.
Feeling dizzy. Sit down for a few minutes until you feel better. Do not drive or use tools or machines.
Increased frequency of passing urine,
high blood pressure, palpitations,
flu-like symptoms, runny nose, allergic
reactions such as skin rash and itchiness.
If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor.
  • 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. 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.

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, Salagen® 5 mg Film Coated Tablets; Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated February 2011.
  • 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 Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
1461 (v23)
Last Checked:
31/10/2012
Next Review:
31/10/2015
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