What To Know About Austedo (Deutetrabenazine)

A Drug Used to Treat Involuntary Movements in People With Huntington's Disease

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Austedo is a medication used to treat the involuntary movements caused by Huntington’s disease. It works by causing a reduction in the chemicals that cause people living with Huntington’s disease to be overly active.

It’s important to know that Austedo doesn’t cure Huntington’s disease and isn’t effective for alleviating other symptoms of the condition.

Austedo is currently only available as a brand name drug, there is currently no approved generic version available for purchase. The active ingredient in Austedo is deutetrabenazine and it belongs to a class of drugs called selective vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) inhibitors.

VMAT2 inhibitors are drugs which cause a reduction of chemical messengers like dopamine and serotonin, especially in your nerve terminal. This helps to treat chorea and tardive dyskinesia.

Uses

Austedo is approved by the FDA for the treatment of the following conditions: 

  • Chorea in people who have Huntington’s disease: Chorea is a condition that causes sudden involuntary movements of your muscles. It occurs in conditions like lupus and hyperthyroidism but has been most closely associated with Huntington’s disease.
  • Tardive dyskinesia: This is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes uncontrollable movements in the face, lips, tongue, and sometimes upper body. This condition is most common in people who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or have been on an antipsychotic medication for a long period.

Before Taking 

People with a history of depression, liver disease, or suicidal thoughts are discouraged from taking Austedo.

Before taking this drug, review the list of active and inactive ingredients the medication contains with your doctor. If you are allergic to deutetrabenazine, you shouldn’t be taking this medication.

Signs of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, tongue, or throat, and rashes. Your doctor will also not prescribe Austedo to you if you have taken Serpalan (reserpine) 20 days before your consultation. 

There is no research pointing to the adverse effects of Austedo for a pregnant or breastfeeding woman or their child. However, you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if there’s a possibility that you could be pregnant before taking Austedo. 

Give your doctor a list of any other vitamins, supplements, and medications you are on before taking Austedo to make sure none of them can cause a dangerous reaction while being used alongside this medication. 

Precautions and Contraindications

Taking Austedo might heighten the risk of developing depression and suicidal thoughts in people who have Huntington’s disease. If you or someone you love is taking Austedo and you notice any sudden changes in mood and behaviors, monitor the symptoms closely.

Any signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors should be reported to your doctor. In people with Huntington’s disease, Austedo might also worsen other symptoms of the condition like mood changes, rigidity, and cognitive functioning.

Your doctor will continuously assess the state of your condition and the progress of your symptoms, to ensure Austedo is safe for you.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Dosage

Austedo is available in 6, 9, and 12-milligram strengths. Dosage for Austedo is given by your doctor and tailored to fit your particular needs.

In deciding the best dosage for you, your doctor will take into consideration your medical history, the severity of your condition, your tolerance for the medication and any other factors that will help them decide the best dosage for you.

However, the manufacturers recommend the following dosage for treating the following conditions: 

  • Chorea associated with Huntington’s disease: An initial dosage of 6 milligrams to be given once a day. Your dosage may be increased by 6 milligrams a day at weekly intervals. The maximum dosage for chorea caused by Huntington’s disease is 48 milligrams a day.
  • Tardive Dyskinesia: An initial dose of 6 milligrams given twice a day is used to treat this condition. This might be steadily increased by your doctor depending on your response to the medication, and whether or not you are experiencing severe side effects. 

Modifications 

People who take medications like fluoxetine and quinidine, which are strong CYP2D6 inhibitors, should not be administered an excess of 36 milligrams a day. They should also not be given more than 18 milligrams of Austedo in a single dose.

CYP2D6 is an enzyme which helps with the metabolism of some drugs. CYP2D6 inhibitors reduce the activity of this enzyme.

How to Take and Store 

You should only take Austedo in the way it has been prescribed by your doctor. If you are unsure of what to do, you can refer to the prescription label. Austedo is typically taken with food and water. You shouldn’t chew, break or crush the drug before taking it, instead swallow it whole.

Store the container containing your pills in a place that is at room temperature. Keep it away from moist environments (like the bathroom) and direct sunlight.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s close to the time for your next dose, then skip the missed dose and take your next dose. 

Side Effects

You might experience some side effects when using Austedo. In some cases, these side effects might not be brought on by the medication but by your condition. This is why it’s important to share any new, developing, or worsening side effects with your doctor. 

Common 

Some common and mild side effects you might experience while using this medication include: 

  • Dry mouth 
  • Insomnia 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fatigue 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Inflammation of the nose and throat 

These side effects are likely to dissipate after a few weeks, however, if they don’t go away or become even more severe then speak to your doctor. 

Severe

It is not common to experience severe side effects while using Austedo. However, in some rare cases the following side effects might occur: 

  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), which might cause symptoms of fever, muscle pain, fatigue, confusion, and irregular heartbeat
  • Depression 
  • Excessive fatigue 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Parkinsonism (symptoms of this include shaking, trouble moving, stiffness, and falls)
  • Hyperprolactinemia
  • Irregular heartbeat 

Warning and Interactions 

Austedo is not approved for use for people who are 18 years old or younger. It is possible for Austedo to impair your thoughts and reactions, which is why you should avoid driving or operating any heavy machinery shortly after taking this medication. It’s also not advisable to drink alcohol while taking this medication as it may result in adverse effects.

If you use medication for heart problems, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, or cancer while using Austedo, you might be at an increased risk of developing a heart condition.

One of the side effects of Austedo is drowsiness, using this medication with other drugs that might make you drowsy will worsen this side effect. MAOIs such as linezolid, phenelzine, and isocarboxazid have also been reported to interact dangerously with Austedo.

If a person shows signs of an overdose from Austedo call 911 immediately. Signs of an overdose will include muscle stiffness, drowsiness, sweating, and muscle pain. 

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Article Sources
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