Updated: 3 August, 2019
This post on Vital Health extensively discusses Famotidine, its uses, dosage and possible side effects.
Famotidine is a drug made for the treatment of acid reflux and heartburn. It is available as both generic and brand drug (commonly known as Pepcid). Generic drugs cost less than the brand ones. They are usually not available in every strength as the brand ones. It can be taken by both adults and children. Children below 12 years of age should be monitored closely by doctors while taking this medication.
What sickness is famotidine used to treat? What is this drug made for? Famotidine belongs to the class of medication commonly known as H2 antagonists, H2 blockers or Histamine 2. If you are suffering from stomach or duodenal (intestinal) ulcer, gastroesophageal reflow disease (GERD) or secretion of excess stomach acid (Zollinger-Ellison syndrome), famotidine might just be what you need. When sores occur on the lining of the stomach and small intestine, ulcers arise. When there is a backward flow of acid from the stomach causing heartburn and injury to the esophagus, it is referred to as GERD. Famotidine work on these health issues by reducing the amount of acid secreted by the stomach.
Prescription famotidine is presented as both tablet and liquid (suspension) forms. You are to take this medication orally. Over-the-counter famotidine comes as a chewable tablet, ordinary tablet to be swallowed and capsule also to be taken by mouth. Your stomach produces acid on its own. This is not harmful as long as the acid production is on a safe limit. When this limit is exceeded, there is a problem. This will require medical attention. Famotidine blocks the histamine 2 (H2) receptor in your tummy. This receptor assists in the release of acid in your tummy. Therefore, by blocking this receptor, the drug cuts down on the amount of acid released in your tummy. It is not best for your health if you just go off and get drugs regarding any health issue without paying your doctor a visit and undergoing the right medical test. It is only after professional opinion has been made that you can begin treatment or management, with drugs prescribed by either your doctor or pharmacist. It is therefore important to get them checked out.
Famotidine can be used without prescription, but it is better to consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking it. At least let them give you professional guidance. It is very dangerous to self-medicate, you should only do so after talking to your doctor. Stomach upset and ulcer might be symptoms of a more underlying sickness. If you are self-medicating with this drug ensure that you read the instructions on the package carefully and understand them. You can use over-the-counter famotidine medication to treat conditions that require the reduction of stomach acid. These medical conditions may include heartburn, acid indigestion and stomach upset. Even if they are associated with the consumption of food and beverages, famotidine can be used to prevent their occurrence.
You can get various forms, strengths and brands of this medication. A brand might not come have all forms and strength of this drug. Your doctor or pharmacist may not approve of all the brands for your condition, use only the brand they approve of. Also, all forms of this drug may not be effective against your own symptoms. Use only the prescribed forms as they will be of more benefit to your health. It is possible for your doctor to prescribe this drug for conditions other than the above listed ones. Make sure you discuss with your doctor before using this drug for medical conditions other than generally specified. Talk to your doctor about any concern you may have about this. It is not safe to stop using this medication without your doctor telling you to stop. You might think the condition has been treated and stop taking your drugs. It is not wise. Always follow your doctor’s instructions.
It is dangerous for someone else to take drugs prescribed for you. Do not give this drug to another person even if they show or complain of the same symptoms you have. They should consult their doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.
A tablet or suspension of this drug may be prescribed for you based on the extent of your sickness. Just like the prescribed ones, over-the-counter famotidine can be a chewable tablet, normal tablet or capsule. They are also to be taken by mouth, once or twice a day. Famotidine is available as 10 mg, 20 mg and 40 mg tablets. According to the usual doctor’s directives for adults, you can take this drug once daily just before going to bed (20 or 40 mg). You can also take one tablet (20 or 40 mg) twice or four times daily, depending on the condition being treated. It is best to use this drug 10-15 minutes before taking food or drink that might trigger the symptoms being treated. However if eating certain foods or drinking some types of liquids does not trigger the treated symptoms, you can take this medication with or without food.
If you are an elderly person or have decreased kidney function, you may be directed to take lower doses or have longer interval between doses. Read the package label of any drug you are taking carefully before you start using it. Carefully adhere to all the directions that come with your drug package. If you don’t understand any of the instructions or have any form of misgivings about them, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Please do not act on your own. Take this drug exactly as you are directed to. Do not increase or decrease your dosage without being instructed by your doctor. Do not take this drug more often than you are told to. Do not stop your medication unless the doctor tells you to, do not continue taking this drug if you have been directed to stop it.
For treatment of duodenal ulcer, 40 mg of this drug might be prescribed for you. Use this at bed time for 4-8 weeks or less if healing occurs. You may be advised by your doctor to continue taking 20 mg of the drug once daily for 6-12 months after healing. The same prescription may be offered by your doctor for benign stomach ulcer without the continuation therapy after healing. The dose varies for individual patients suffering from Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and similar conditions, starting with 20 mg every 6 hours. For relieve or prevention of GERD, 20 mg of the drug can be taken twice daily. If this drug is used for treatment of esophageal damage related to GERD, 40 mg is usually taken twice daily.
If you are using the suspension form of this drug, shake well for 5-10 seconds before each use. Ensure that the drug mix properly. If you are using the chewable tablet, chew thoroughly before swallowing. Make sure you swallow tablet with full glass of water. Do not take over-the-counter famotidine for more than 2 weeks straight, unless your doctor tells you to. Do not take more than 2 capsules of chewable or ordinary tablet of this drug in 24 hours, if it is over-the-counter type. The usual dose when using this form of unprescribed drug for children over 12 years of age and adults is 10 mg to 40 mg to be taken once daily. If heartburn, acid indigestion or sour stomach upset symptoms continue after 2 weeks, take a break from this drug and call your physician. According to an article by the Drug Information Group, University of Illinois-Chicago, famotidine can be used by children of all ages for the treatment of GERD. It has not been examined in children below 1 year for the treatment of ulcer. Also, it is yet to be studied in children who below the age of 16 for the treatment of pathological hypersecretory conditions.
The injectable form of this drug may be used in hospitals for special occasions. It is usually used when a patient is unable to swallow tablets. 20 mg is usually injected into the body every 12 hours through the vein. Your body weight, other medical conditions and any other medications you are currently on, can affect the dose you are to take.
If your symptoms decrease and you feel less pain while taking this drug it means the drug is working for you. It is very important to watch what you eat as they may irritate your stomach, rendering the drug ineffective. These irritations can even worsen your symptoms. Follow your doctor’s direction on what to eat when treating stomach or duodenal ulcer. If your symptoms persist after several doses, call your doctor. Other similar drugs may be better for you. You may also need to adjust your lifestyle if you smoke, drink, pass through stress constantly or eat poor meals so as to improve the effectiveness of this drug.
When not to take Famotidine
If you are allergic to famotidine or any ingredient of the medication, do not take it. Remember to ask for a list of the drug ingredients to know which one you may react to. Do not take this drug if you are also allergic to other acid reducing agents otherwise known as H2 receptor antagonists (cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatidine, etc.). Do not take this drug with other prescription and nonprescription drugs used to treat heartburn unless directed to do so by the doctor.
Let your doctor or pharmacist know the following before you start taking famotidine medication;
- If you are allergic to any medication
- A detailed information on all the prescription and nonprescription drugs, supplements, vitamins and herbal products you are taking
- If you have phenylketonuria (PKU) and any history of swallowing trouble or kidney disease.
- If you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding. Call your doctor if you get pregnant while on this medication.
Do not exceed the dose specified for you. If you discover you missed your dose on time, take your drug as you were supposed to. However if you discover you missed a dose and it’s almost time for your next dose, wait till the next dose and take it. Do not double your next dose. Try as much as possible to adhere strictly to your medication routine. For this drug to work well a certain amount needs to be in your system at all times and your routine have to be constant.
Overdose of this drug can trigger the following;
- Severe muscle pain
In any case of overdose, call your doctor or local poison control center.
There are side effects for both adults and children taking this drug. Adults can experience side effects like diarrhea, headaches, dizziness and constipation while children may experience agitation and restlessness often crying for no reason. These side effects usually stop after few days. However it is advisable to quickly reach your doctor if the symptoms graduate to serious cases like;
- Heart problems (dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, irregular heart rate)
- Severe muscle problems (weakness, fever, unusual muscle pain)
- Neurological problems (sleeping problems, seizures, decreased sex drive, depression, agitation and anxiety)
- Liver problems (unusual weakness, loss of appetite, stomach pain, change in urine colour, yellowing of skin) Skin problems (blisters, rash, mouth ulcer).
Interactions with other drugs
If you are currently on any medications, supplements or herbs, famotidine may interact with them. These substances alter the mode of action of the drug. Oftentimes they might inhibit the drug action. The only way to prevent this interaction is to tell your doctor or pharmacist the substances you are presently taking. With this information, they will counsel you properly on which of the substances to take or stop taking while on this medication.
It is best to store this drug at room temperature, away from direct light and moisture (do not store in bathrooms). Keep your drug away from children and pets. Unless instructed otherwise, do not flush your medication down the toilet or pour down the drain. Reach out to your local waste disposal agency or pharmacist to be enlightened on proper ways to dispose expired drugs or those that may no more be in use.