How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Riluzole belongs to the class of medications called antiglutamates. It is used to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), a motor neuron disease of the brain and spinal cord that causes muscle weakness and eventually paralysis.

Riluzole works by blocking the release of a compound called glutamate, which is believed to injure nerve cells.

Riluzole has not shown to have an effect on the symptoms of ALS, so you are not likely to feel or see a change in your condition. Although this medication will not cure ALS, it can prolong life and delay the need for a tracheotomy (the surgical creation of an artificial airway in the windpipe for breathing) for people with ALS.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each white, capsule-shaped, film coated tablet, engraved with "RPR 202" on one side, contains riluzole 50 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: anhydrous colloidal silica, anhydrous dibasic calcium phosphate, croscarmellose sodium, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol 6000, and titanium dioxide.

How should I use this medication?

The recommended adult dose of riluzole is 50 mg every 12 hours. Riluzole should be taken on an empty stomach, 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important to use this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take this mediction if you:

  • are allergic to riluzole or to any of the ingredients of the medication
  • are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • have liver disease or elevated liver function tests

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • change in appetite
  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • pain
  • rash
  • stomach pain or upset
  • tremor
  • trouble sleeping
  • weakness or loss of energy

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • depressed mood
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • irregular heartbeat
  • mouth sores
  • swelling of hands or feet
  • vomiting

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • signs of a serious allergic reaction (e.g., swelling of face or throat, hives, or difficulty breathing or shortness of breath)
  • signs of liver problems (e.g., dark urine, yellowing of skin or eyes, abdominal swelling, general discomfort, itchiness, nausea, vomiting)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Alcohol: Limit your consumption of alcohol while taking this medication. Riluzole may cause liver problems, and alcohol may increase the risk of liver problems.

Blood cell counts: This medication may cause neutropenia (low white blood cell count), which can mean your immune system is weak. If you develop a fever, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will also perform blood tests regularly to monitor your blood cell counts.

Dizziness and drowsiness: Riluzole can cause dizziness, vertigo, or drowsiness in some people. Do not drive or operate machines until you now how this medication affects you.

Kidney problems: If you have kidney problems, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed

Liver problems: Riluzole can cause liver injury. Your doctor will perform tests regularly to monitor your liver function. If you experience any symptoms of liver damage (e.g., yellowing of skin or eyes, darkened urine, itchiness, abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever), contact your doctor immediately. If you have liver disease or unexplained abnormal liver function test results, do not use riluzole.

Pregnancy: The medication should not be used during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if riluzole passes into breast milk. This medication should not be used by women who are breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between riluzole and any of the following:

  • alcohol
  • allopurinol
  • anticonvulsants (e.g., carbemazepine)
  • amitriptyline
  • caffeine
  • cigarette smoke
  • methyldopa
  • omeprazole
  • quinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin)
  • rifampin
  • sulfasalazine
  • tacrine
  • theophylline

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.