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A member of the class of medications called prokinetics, Itopride helps relieve symptoms such as heartburn and abdominal pain. It has been available in Japan since 1995 but has not been approved for use in the United States or in the United Kingdom. Unique among prokinetic drugs, Itopride relieves gastrointestinal symptoms by both increasing stomach contractions and blocking chemicals that slow down these contractions. The result of these interactions is that food passes quickly through the stomach and does not build up additional acid.
Non-ulcer dyspepsia and gastro-esophageal reflux disease are the two conditions that can be treated with Itopride. In non-ulcer dyspepsia, patients exhibit chronic indigestion, often along with bloating and pain in the upper abdomen. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease is also a chronic condition that causes a burning sensation in the upper abdomen and esophagus as stomach acid leaks into the upper digestive tract. Left untreated, this condition can lead to more serious disorders, including esophageal stenosis and cancer of the esophagus.
As a type of drug called a prokinetic, Itopride treats non-ulcer dyspepsia and acid reflux by helping the contents of the stomach pass through the digestive tract more quickly. It makes the muscles of the stomach tighter and more sensitive to food. In a healthy digestive tract, the presence of food in the system triggers the release of stomach acid and contraction of the muscles of the stomach. Increasing the stomach’s sensitivity to the presence of food helps ensure that digestion progresses quickly.
Unlike competing prokinetics, Itopride has a second effect on the digestive system as well. The stomach has a number of dopamine receptors, which, when triggered, slow down stomach contractions and decrease their strength. Itopride blocks the dopamine receptors in the stomach. Without dopamine, stomach contractions are able to continue until all of the food is pushed out of the stomach.
A quick-acting drug, Itopride starts to take effect after about 30 minutes. Generally, patients are given three daily doses about a half an hour before each meal. The medication is not affected by the presence of food in the stomach however, and can be taken during or after a meal if needed. There are few side effects associated with the use of this drug, though some patients experience headache, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Itopride has not been shown to have an effect on a patient’s heartbeat, unlike some other prokinetic drugs available.