Pilocarpine is used to treat dry mouth caused by radiotherapy in people with head and neck cancer and to treat dry mouth in people with Sjogren’s syndrome (a condition that affects the immune system and causes dryness of certain parts of the body such as the eyes and mouth). Pilocarpine is in a class of medications called cholinergic agonists. It works by increasing the amount of saliva in the mouth.

Side Effects Of Pilocarpine

Pilocarpine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • sweating
  • nausea
  • runny nose
  • diarrhea
  • chills
  • flushing
  • frequent urination
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • heartburn
  • stomach pain
  • swelling of the arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • changes in vision
  • fast or slow heartbeat

Pilocarpine may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

Warnings & Precautions

Before taking pilocarpine:

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to pilocarpine (Pilopine HS, Salagen)or any other medications.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: ambenonium (Mytelase); antihistamines; atropine (Motofen, in Lomotil, in Lonox); beta blockers such as atenolol (Tenormin), labetalol (Normodyne), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), and propranolol (Inderal); bethanechol (Urecholine); cevimeline (Evoxac); donepezil (Aricept); galantamine (Razadyne); ipratropium (Atrovent, in Combivent, in Duoneb); medications for irritable bowel disease, motion sickness, Parkinson’s disease, ulcers, or urinary problems; neostigmine (Prostigmin); physostigmine (Mestinon); rivastigmine (Exelon) and tacrine (Cognex). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • tell your doctor if you have asthma, acute iritis (uveitis; swelling and irritation inside the eye), or glaucoma (an eye disease). Your doctor may tell you not to take pilocarpine.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had chronic bronchitis or another type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD; a group of lung diseases that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema); kidney stones; gallstones; mental illness; any condition that affects your ability to think; or gallbladder, heart, or liver disease.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking pilocarpine, call your doctor.
  • you should know that pilocarpine may cause decreased fertility in men and women. Talk to your doctor before you take pilocarpine if you or your partner would like to become pregnant.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking pilocarpine.
  • you should know that pilocarpine may cause changes in vision, especially at night, or when there is not enough light. Be careful when driving at night, or when performing dangerous activities in low lighting.
  • you should know that pilocarpine may cause you to sweat a great deal, which can cause dehydration. Be sure to drink plenty of water and call your doctor right away if you are having difficulty drinking enough fluid or if you think you may be dehydrated.

Dosage Of Pilocarpine

Pilocarpine comes as a tablet to take by mouth. When pilocarpine is used to treat dry mouth caused by radiotherapy in people who have head and neck cancer, it is usually taken three times a day. When pilocarpine is used to treat dry mouth in people who have Sjogren’s syndrome, it is usually taken four times a day. Take pilocarpine at around the same times every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take pilocarpine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Your doctor may start you on an average dose of pilocarpine and adjust your dose depending on how well your symptoms are controlled and the side effects you experience. Be sure to tell your doctor how you are feeling during your treatment with pilocarpine.

Pilocarpine will control your symptoms but will not cure your condition. Continue to take pilocarpine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking pilocarpine without talking to your doctor.


Keep all appointments with your doctor.

Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.

It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.


All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.