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Actigall (ursodeoxycholic acid) is used to:
The active ingredient, ursodeoxycholic acid, is produced naturally by the liver and excreted into bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder until it is needed to aid in digestion. As a medication, Actigall does two things:
With less cholesterol in the bile (which is stored in the gallbladder) it is more difficult for gallstones to develop or grow, and allows existing gallstones to break down.
It is unclear how exactly Actigall helps reduce the severity of symptoms in primary biliary cirrhosis.
In the majority of cases, Actigall is prescribed for gallstone prevention in individuals who are obese and likely to undergo rapid weight loss, be it from diet, surgical procedures, fasting, taking medications, or any other method. Treatment is typically as follows:
Treatment typically continues for at least 6 months, and in some cases may last longer if weight loss is still occurring or there is reason to believe gallstone development is still an issue. Once weight normalizes, there is no need to continue treatment.
When effective, dissolving gallstones with Actigall is an alternative to surgery. Note that it is effective only on stones consisting of cholesterol, and will have no effect on other types.
Treatment is somewhat variable:
Treatment will usually last for a minimum of one year. Progress should be checked at least every six months. If significant reduction of stones is observed at the first six-month checkup, complete resolution is likely. If there is little evidence of stones being dissolved after 12 months, treatment is unlikely to work and should be stopped. When the medication appears to be working, it may be taken until stones are completely gone. About 50 percent of patients find stones return several years after stopping treatment if appropriate lifestyle changes are not made. Treatment may be repeated if needed.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
Primary biliary cirrhosis is a relatively complicated liver disease and the exact mechanism by which Actigall works is unclear. Treatment is usually very similar in all cases:
In primary biliary cirrhosis the medication is typically taken for life, or until a liver transplant. When the medication is effective, it will improve liver function and reduce the severity of symptoms, which can extend life and delay the need for a transplant.
Actigall is a remarkably safe medication, unlikely to produce serious side effects even when taken in doses much larger than those recommended. Most common side effects are mild and transient, disappearing entirely as the body adjusts to treatment:
Actigall may interact with a variety of other medications; check with a doctor or pharmacist if unsure about mixing treatments.
No current Rx required
Medicines have benefits and some have risks. Always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist or you have side effects see your health professional.