What is Salagen&Reg;?

D. Jeffress

Salagen® is a prescription drug that is used to combat the symptoms of chronic dry mouth. It works by stimulating the body's natural production of saliva. It is usually given to patients who have an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren's syndrome that causes inflammation of the salivary glands, but Salagen® may also be prescribed for cancer patients who experience dry mouth as a side effect of radiation therapy. Dosage amounts vary based on a patient's particular condition, and it is important for people to follow their doctor's instructions when taking the drug to achieve the maximum effects.

Salagen is a prescription medication used to combat the symptoms of dry mouth.
Salagen is a prescription medication used to combat the symptoms of dry mouth.

Doctors classify Salagen® and its generic variety pilocarpine as cholinergic agonists. They are chemically similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and they work to boost the effects of naturally-produced acetylcholine in the nervous system. Salagen® stimulates smooth muscle tissue in the throat, mouth, and sinuses, which in turn promotes mucus and saliva secretion. When dry mouth is relieved, inflammation in the throat and mouth subside and it is easier to speak, chew, swallow, and fall asleep.

Salagen® and other cholinergic agonists often cause side effects, but they are usually mild and go away fairly quickly. The most common side effects include nausea, indigestion, runny nose, and excess sweating. A person may develop a mild fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, and a wet cough as well. Less commonly, muscle twitches, joint aches, and increased heart rate may occur. It is also possible to experience an allergic reaction when taking Salagen® that causes a spreading skin rash and throat swelling that need to be addressed in an emergency room.

Doctors are careful when prescribing Salagen® to their patients to minimize the risks of adverse side effects and allergic reactions. A physician typically reviews a patient's medical history and current medication use to make sure it is safe to start him or her on a new prescription. Most adult patients are instructed to take one five milligram tablet with water three to four times a day. Cancer patients can stop taking the drug when their symptoms resolve, but people with Sjogren's syndrome may need to keep taking daily doses indefinitely.

If Salagen® is taken in larger doses than it was prescribed, it can cause potentially life-threatening problems. Patients who overdose on the drug may experience arrhythmia, shortness of breath, and mental confusion. Muscle twitches, tremors, and fainting may occur within a few minutes of overdosing. Long-term use of the drug has been linked to gastrointestinal disorders, kidney failure, and glaucoma, so patients are generally instructed to receive regular checkups to make sure complications do not arise.

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