Tetrabenazine is used to treat chorea (sudden movements that you cannot control) caused by Huntington’s disease (an inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain). Tetrabenazine is in a class of medications called vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) inhibitors. It works by changing the activity of certain natural substances in the brain that affect nerves and muscles.

Side Effects Of Tetrabenazine

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

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • decreased appetite
  • headache
  • pain or burning upon urination
  • bruising
  • difficulty speaking or being understood

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS section, stop taking tetrabenazine and call your doctor immediately:

  • fever, sweating, confusion, fast or irregular heartbeat, and severe muscle stiffness
  • difficulty moving or keeping your balance
  • muscle stiffness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • restlessness

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

Warnings & Precautions

Before taking tetrabenazine:

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to tetrabenazine, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in tetrabenazine tablets. Ask your pharmacist or check the Medication Guide for a list of the ingredients.
  • tell your doctor if you are taking reserpine, deutetrabenazine (Austedo), valbenazine (Ingrezza), or a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate), or if you have stopped taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor within the past 2 weeks or stopped taking reserpine in the last 20 days. Your doctor will probably tell you that you should not take tetrabenazine.
  • 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: medications for anxiety; antipsychotics such as chlorpromazine, haloperidol (Haldol), olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), thioridazine, and ziprasidone (Geodon); fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Selfemra); certain medications for irregular heartbeats such as amiodarone (Cordarone, Nexterone, Pacerone), procainamide, quinidine (in Nuedexta), and sotalol (Betapace, Sorine, Sotylize); moxifloxacin (Avelox); paroxetine (Brisdelle, Paxil, Pexeva); and sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • tell your doctor if you have liver disease. Your doctor will probably tell you not to take tetrabenazine.
  • tell your doctor if you have recently had a heart attack or if you have or have ever had long QT syndrome (a condition that increases the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat that may cause fainting or sudden death), another type of irregular heartbeat, or heart rhythm problem, heart failure, or heart disease. Also, tell your doctor if you have low blood levels of magnesium or potassium in your blood or breast cancer.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking tetrabenazine, call your doctor.
  • you should know that tetrabenazine may make you drowsy or cause tiredness. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
  • you should know that alcohol can add to the drowsiness caused by this medication. Do not drink alcohol while taking tetrabenazine.
  • you should know that tetrabenazine may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting when you get up too quickly from a lying position. To avoid this problem, get out of bed slowly, resting your feet on the floor for a few minutes before standing up.

Dosage Of Tetrabenazine

Tetrabenazine comes as a tablet to take by mouth with or without food. It is usually taken once a day at first, then increased to twice a day one week later, and then increased to three times a day one week after that. Take tetrabenazine at around the same time(s) 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 tetrabenazine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of tetrabenazine and gradually increase or decrease your dose, not more than once every week, depending on how well the medication works for you and the side effects you experience. Be sure to tell your doctor how you are feeling so that your doctor can prescribe the right amount of medication to treat your condition with the lowest risk of side effects.


Keep all appointments with the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab tests to check your body’s response to tetrabenazine.

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.