Metoclopramide

Sounds like 'MET-oh-KLOE-pra-mide'

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

Type of medicine

Also called

  • Medicine used to treat nausea and vomiting
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as antiemetics
  • Metamide®

What is metoclopramide?

Metoclopramide is used to treat and prevent nausea and vomiting due to a variety of causes such as cancer medication, a migraine headache or following surgery. It is also used to treat on-going heartburn when the usual medicines do not work well enough, and it is used in people who have poor emptying of their stomachs (gastroparesis). 

Metoclopramide works by blocking a chemical in the brain, called dopamine, known to trigger nausea and vomiting and its also assists with contraction in the stomach, which speeds up stomach emptying and helps to keep your digestive system moving.  

In New Zealand, metoclopramide is available as tablets (10 mg) and can be given as an injection in the hospital.   

Dose

  • The dose of metoclopramide will be different for different people, depending on its use.
  • The usual dose for adults 20 years and over is 10 mg three times a day. If you are under 20 years old, or over 65 years old, it may be best to use a different medicine, or you will be given lower doses because you are at increased risk of side effects.
  • Metoclopramide should only be used for short-term (up to 5 days).
  • Always take your metoclopramide exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much metoclopramide to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take metoclopramide

  • Take metoclopramide with a glass of water.
  • If you are taking metoclopramide three times a day, spread your doses evenly throughout the day – every 8 hours is recommended.  
  • If heartburn only occurs at certain times (such as after the evening meal), your doctor may direct you to take a single dose before it is likely to occur instead of taking it regularly throughout the day.
  • Limit drinking alcohol while you're taking metoclopramide. Alcohol can increase the risk of side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness and or lightheadedness. 
  • If you forget 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 taking metoclopramide

  • Are you under 20 years old, or over 65 years old? (you may need lower doses, or you may be advised to use a different medicine)
  • Do you have problems with your liver or kidneys?
  • Have you ever had problems with your bowel, like bowel obstruction?
  • Do you have problems with your heart such as an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure? 
  • Do you have epilepsy?
  • Do you have Parkinson’s disease?
  • Do you have asthma or allergies?
  • Do you suffer from depression?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Are you taking or using any other medicines? This includes any medicines being taken which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start metoclopramide. 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, metoclopramide 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?
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea (runny poo)
  • These are quite common when you first start taking metoclopramide, and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Be careful when getting up from either lying down or sitting to avoid falls. These effects put you at risk of falls and injuries, especially if you're older
  • Anxiety, agitation
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Breast changes such as pain or enlargement
  • Tell your doctor or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of movement changes such as shaking (tremors), slow or difficult movements, muscle stiffness 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116

Interactions

Metoclopramide may interact with some medicines and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting metoclopramide or before starting any new medicines.

Learn more

The following links have more information on metoclopramide.

Metoclopramide New Zealand Formulary Patient Information

References

  1. Metoclopramide New Zealand Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 18 Apr 2019