What is Misoprostol (Cytotec)?

Cytotec is the brand name for the generic medication Misoprostol. It has multiple uses but it is most often prescribed for the prevention of stomach ulcers caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen for patients who are prone or at high risk for gastric ulcers (e.g. elderly patients, patients with concomitant diseases).

It can also be used to terminate a pregnancy when used individually as well as in combination with mifepristone or for the treatment of an incomplete or missed abortion. In other circumstances, it can also be for the induction of labor or for postpartum hemorrhage. Please consult your doctor if you have any questions about its use.

Misoprostol comes in many different forms including gels, inserts, and tablets. It can be administered by various routes including by mouth, through vaginal insertion, sublingually (under the tongue), buccally (between gums and cheeks), or even rectally. Specific instructions on how to administer this medication should be followed as prescribed.

Keep reading below to learn more about this important medication. 

How does it work? 

Misoprostol (Cytotec) helps prevent stomach ulcers by reducing the contact between acid and your stomach lining. When used for the purpose of abortion, it causes the uterus to contract and the cervix to dilate, which leads to fetal tissue being loosened and expelled from the body. That is why it is very important to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant before taking misoprostol (Cytotec). Because of the uterine contraction effect, misoprostol (Cytotec) is sometimes used as an agent for the induction of labor. 

What are the possible side effects?

Common side effects all include bleeding, cramping, nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea. It is important to increase how much water you drink while taking misoprostol because diarrhea can lead to dehydration. 

Try taking your dose of misoprostol (Cytotec) with food—this will help to reduce the chance of you feeling nauseous from the medication. You can also use a heating pad to help ease any stomach cramps you may experience.

If you are taking this drug to prevent gastric ulcers, do not take it if you are pregnant. That’s why you must be on birth control while on this drug. Misoprostol (Cytotec) may cause birth defects, loss of the unborn baby, or premature birth if taken while pregnant. It may also cause the uterus to tear and bleed. Continue to avoid pregnancy for at least 1 month after discontinuing therapy, as the drug levels in the body may still be in your system and it may take some time for your body to clear it. 

What are some helpful pharmacist tips? 

Do not combine misoprostol (Cytotec) with any antacids that contain magnesium, such as Maalox or Mylanta. And, as always, be sure to let your pharmacist know about all other medications (including over-the-counter supplements and drugs) you are taking so that they can check for serious interactions. 

If you miss a dose, please take one as soon as you think about it and with food. If it is close to the time of your next dose, skip the missed dose and just take it at your normal time. Do not take extra doses.

Appropriate diet and lifestyle habits are recommended if it’s being used to prevent ulcers (e.g- avoid sour/acidic or spicy foods if possible).

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Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi