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
  • Belongs to a group of medicines to treat the symptoms of Meniere's syndrome
  • Vergo®

What is betahistine?

Betahistine is thought to work by improving blood flow to your brain and affecting nerve cells in your inner ear. It is used to treat symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance, ringing in your 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 you to try 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.
  • 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.

Precautions – before using betahistine

  • Do you have asthma?
  • Do you have, or have you had, a stomach ulcer?
  • Are you are taking or using any other medicines? This includes any medicines you are using that are available to buy without a prescription.
  • Have you ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start taking betahistine. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions or it can only be used with extra care.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines betahistine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often 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 your face, lips, mouth or having problems breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116.

Interactions

Betahistine may interact with some medications and herbal supplements so let your doctor or pharmacist know if you are taking any other medicines.

Learn more

The following link has more information on betahistine.

Vergo 16 Consumer Information, Medsafe

References

  1. betahistine dihydrochloride New Zealand Formulary
  2. A delicate balance: managing vertigo in general practice BPAC, NZ, 2012
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 27 Sep 2018