Nabilone capsules

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Nabilone is prescribed for sickness caused by cancer treatments.

Side-effects such as feeling sleepy and dizzy are common. They may last for several days after your last dose.

If you notice any changes in your mood or behaviour, please speak with your doctor as soon as possible for advice.

Type of medicineAn antiemetic (anti-sickness)
Used forSickness associated with cancer treatment
Available asCapsules

You will have been prescribed nabilone to prevent (or treat) feelings of sickness caused by your anticancer medicines. It is not clear how the medicine works, but it can be helpful even if other anti-sickness medicines have not been effective. It is usually prescribed by a hospital doctor. It is a man-made cannabinoid. This means that it has effects similar to extracts from the cannabis plant.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking nabilone it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have heart disease, or if you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have ever been diagnosed with a mental health problem - for example, depression or schizophrenia.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack and any additional information your doctor has given to you. These will give you more information about nabilone, and will also provide you with a full list of side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
  • Take the capsules exactly as your doctor tells you to. It is likely that you will be prescribed one (1 mg) capsule twice-daily throughout each cycle of your chemotherapy and for up to two days afterwards. Swallow the capsule with a drink of water. You may be advised to take your first dose the night before you start chemotherapy and then another dose one to three hours before your treatment begins. If it is considered necessary, your doctor can increase your dose to a maximum of two 1 mg capsules three times a day.
  • Take nabilone at the same time of day each day if possible - this will help you to take your doses regularly. Try to take the correct number of doses each day, but never take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are on nabilone. Nabilone will increase the risk of some of the side-effects of alcohol, particularly feeling drowsy and dizzy.
  • Nabilone is likely to affect your ability to drive. You must not drive while taking the medicine until you know how it affects you. It is against the law to drive if your driving ability is impaired.
  • If you are planning a trip abroad, you are advised to carry a letter with you from your doctor to explain that you have been prescribed nabilone. This is because it is classed as a 'controlled drug' and is subject to certain restrictions.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains the most common ones associated with nabilone. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. Some of the side-effects listed below may last for two or three days after you've stopped taking nabilone.

Common nabilone side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling drowsy or sleepyDo not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Feeling dizzy (possibly caused by low blood pressure)Get up and move more slowly than normal. If you begin to feel dizzy, sit or lie down until you feel better
High moods, poor muscle co-ordination, eyesight problems, difficulties concentrating, difficulties sleepingSpeak with your doctor if any of these become troublesome
Dry mouthTry chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets
HeadacheSpeak with your doctor if troublesome

If you experience other symptoms which you think may be due to the capsules, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your prescribed medicines.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Nabilone 1 mg Capsules; Meda Pharmaceuticals, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated May 2014.
  • British National Formulary; 70th Edition (Sep 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3703 (v24)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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