Betahistine

Sounds like 'Bee-ta-HIS-teen'

Easy-to-read medicine information about betahistine – what it is, how to take it safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Histamine
  • Belongs to a group of medicines to treat the symptoms of Meniere's syndrome
  • Vergo®
  • Serc®

What is betahistine?

  • Betahistine is classified as a histamine. It works by improving blood flow to the brain and affecting nerve cells in the inner ear.
  • It is used to treat symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss associated with Meniere's disease.
  • It is unlikely to stop all these symptoms, but it may reduce how often these occur and their severity.
  • Your doctor may advise a trial of betahistine for 6 to 12 months to see if it helps to reduce your symptoms. If it does, it can then be continued.

Dose

  • The usual dose of betahistine is half a tablet (8 milligrams) or one tablet (16 milligrams) taken 3 times daily.
  • However, depending on your response. your doctor may tell you to take different doses to these.
  • Always take your betahistine exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much betahistine to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take betahistine

  • Take your betahistine tablets with a glass of water.
  • Take betahistine at the same times each day.
  • It is best taken with or after food, to prevent stomach upset.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking betahistine.
  • Keep taking betahistine every day. It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks before any response to betahistine is noticeable. 
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day.
  • But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, betahistine can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Stomach upset
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Gas in the stomach or bloating
  • These are quite common when you first start taking betahistine and often go away with time
  • Try taking betahistine with or after food
  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rashes, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of the face, lips, mouth or have problems breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine.

Interactions

Betahistine may  interact with a number of important medications and herbal supplements (such as St. John's Wort) so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn more

The following links provide further information on betahistine.
Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets:

Serc
Vergo 16

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ Last reviewed: 29 Aug 2015