Desmopressin (DDAVP, DesmoMelt, Desmospray, Desmotabs, Octim)

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Different brands of desmopressin are prescribed for different medical conditions, so please carefully read the printed information which comes with your medicine.

Take desmopressin exactly as your doctor tells you to.

Type of medicineA vasopressin analogue
Used forDiabetes insipidus; passing urine at night (nocturia) associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis; bedwetting in older children; following surgery to remove the pituitary gland; haemophilia, von Willebrand's disease and blood clotting tests
Also calledDDAVP®; DesmoMelt®; Desmospray®; Desmotabs®; Octim®
Available asTablets, melt-in-the-mouth tablets, injection, nose drops and nose spray

Desmopressin is used in several different conditions. It is a vasopressin analogue, which means that it is similar to a naturally occurring hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin is also called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH has an effect on your kidneys. It causes your kidneys to pass out less water in your urine, so your urine becomes more concentrated.

Diabetes insipidus is a condition in which your ability to control the balance of water within your body is not working properly. Your kidneys are not able to regulate how much water passes out in your urine as well as they should. If you have cranial diabetes insipidus, this happens because your brain is producing or releasing a reduced amount of ADH. Desmopressin has the same effect on your kidneys as ADH. It replaces the ADH that your body is lacking and so will help to control the amount of urine that you pass.

Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) means that a child passes urine in the night when they are asleep. Desmopressin works by reducing the amount of urine your child makes at night. There is a separate leaflet called Desmopressin for Bedwetting which provides more information about this.

Surgery on the pituitary gland in the brain can lead to over-production of urine. This is because ADH is normally released into your bloodstream from your pituitary gland. Desmopressin is commonly given for short periods of time following this type of surgery.

People with haemophilia or von Willebrand's disease have either a deficiency or a complete lack of some blood clotting factors, and therefore have problems with stopping bleeding. Desmopressin boosts the levels of these clotting factors and helps the blood to clot more efficiently. It is used for short periods of time, such as when surgery is planned, or during bleeding episodes.

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 (or, where appropriate, your child) start taking desmopressin it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have a heart condition or blood vessel disease.
  • If you have any problems with the way your kidneys work.
  • If you have any of the following conditions: high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy, migraine or cystic fibrosis.
  • If you have an alcohol problem or addiction.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. It is particularly important that you tell your doctor if you are taking a 'water' tablet (diuretic). You should also tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about the preparation you have been given, and will provide you with a full list of side-effects which you could experience. Not all brands of desmopressin are suitable for all the conditions listed above, so it is important that you read and follow the information that comes with your supply.
  • Take desmopressin exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your dose will depend upon the reason you are taking it. Your doctor will tell you what the correct dose is for you and also how to administer it. The directions will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what the doctor said to you.
  • If you have been given standard tablets (brand names DDAVP®, Desmotabs®), these can be swallowed whole with a drink of water, or can be crushed before swallowing.
  • If you have been given tablets to 'melt' in your mouth (brands DDAVP Melt®, DesmoMelt®), place the tablet under your tongue and allow it to dissolve completely. If it breaks into pieces as you are taking it out of the packaging, this may mean that you do not receive the correct dose. If this happens, unwrap another tablet and do not use the broken one.
  • If you are using intranasal solution, you will have been told how to measure out your dose. If you are still unsure, ask your pharmacist or practice nurse to show you again.
  • If you have been given desmopressin spray, prime the spray before you use it for the first time, by pressing several times until you see a fine mist. 
  • If you miss taking a dose or if you take more doses than you should, speak with your doctor or practice nurse for advice on what to do.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Do not drink large quantities of fluids, as this can lead to a build-up of water in your body. Too much fluid can reduce the level of salts (electrolytes) in your body. This can sometimes cause serious symptoms like fits. Make sure you have discussed with your doctor how much fluid you should drink each day.
  • If you are taking desmopressin for bedwetting or having to go to the toilet frequently during the night, it is important that you drink as little as possible from one hour before you take desmopressin to eight hours afterwards.
  • If you are sick or have diarrhoea while you are taking desmopressin, you may need to miss out some doses until you are drinking normally again. Your doctor or practice nurse will be able to advise you about what to do.
  • If you are a swimmer, it is important that you do not swallow water as you swim. Ask your doctor for advice about whether swimming is recommended for you.
  • If you are due to have an operation or dental treatment, please tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking desmopressin.
  • If you buy any medicines 'over the counter', please check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with desmopressin. Some medicines (for example, loperamide for the treatment of diarrhoea) may not be.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the ones associated with desmopressin. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Desmopressin side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Stomach pain, feeling or being sickStick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals. If you continue to feel sick, speak with your doctor or nurse for further advice
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller.  If the headache is severe or continues, speak with your doctor or nurse for further advice
Increased weight, feeling confusedLet your doctor know. These may be signs that your dose needs adjusting
Allergic-type reactions, emotional changes (agression) in childrenLet your doctor know
With the nasal spray: nosebleeds and runny or blocked noseIf troublesome, let your doctor know

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

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Some brands of intranasal solution should be stored in a fridge - please check the pack label for more information.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone 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.

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

  • 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 Helen Huins
Document ID:
1412 (v25)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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