Ursodiol (Actigall, Urso 250/Urso Forte)

Take this medicine with or immediately after food.

Try to avoid eating foods that are high in calories or cholesterol.

Do not take antacid preparations at the same time as this medicine. Some indigestion remedies stop ursodiol from working properly.

Type of medicineA bile acid
Used forPreventing or dissolving gallstones
A type of liver disease known as primary biliary cirrhosis
Also calledActigall®; Urso® 250; Urso® Forte
Available asCapsules, tablets

Gallstones cause problems such as pain, yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice), inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis), and gallbladder inflammation. They occur when bile, which is normally fluid, forms stones. Gallstones commonly contain lumps of fatty (cholesterol-like) material that has solidified and hardened. They may also contain bile pigments and calcium deposits. These stones can block the bile duct, causing pain.

Surgery is the usual treatment for gallstones that are causing symptoms, but treatment with ursodiol (also known as ursodeoxycholic acid) may dissolve smaller stones which are made mainly of cholesterol. Ursodiol is a bile acid which is produced naturally by the body. It works by reducing the amount of cholesterol released by your liver and by slowly dispersing the cholesterol in bile. This breaks up the stones or stops them developing.

Some ursodiol preparations are used to prevent gallstones developing in people who are undergoing rapid weight loss.

Some ursodiol preparations can also help to treat primary biliary cirrhosis. This is a condition that slowly damages the bile ducts in the liver, and as the disease progresses, it can damage the liver.

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

  • If you have problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have a problem with your gallbladder other than gallstones.
  • If you have a condition which affects your intestines (such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis), or if you have had surgery on your bowel.
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal or complementary medicines. In particular, let your physician know if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the specific brand of ursodiol you have been given, and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Take ursodiol exactly as your physician tells you to. How much you need to take will depend upon what you are being treated for. Your physician will tell you exactly how much to take and when, and the dosage directions will be on the label of the pack to remind you.
  • To dissolve gallstones, it is usually taken two or three times a day. If you are taking ursodiol for primary biliary cirrhosis, it is likely that you will be asked to take 2-4 doses daily. To prevent gallstones whilst you are losing weight the dose is usually twice daily. In all cases try to take your last dose at bedtime.
  • Try to take ursodiol at the same times each day as this will help you to remember to take it. Take each of your doses with a snack or just after eating a meal..
  • If you forget to take a dose, take one as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your physician. This is so your physician can check on your progress. You will need to have blood tests, scans or X-rays from time to time.
  • It is important that you follow any dietary advice that you have been given by your physician. Try to avoid foods that are high in calories or cholesterol.
  • You may need to take ursodiol for up to two years for the treatment of gallstones. Once the gallstones have dissolved, your physician may continue your treatment for three to four months to ensure that they have completely cleared up. Treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis is usually long-term unless you experience an adverse effect.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with this medicine. This is particularly important if you are buying indigestion remedies. Some antacid preparations contain aluminium salts which can interfere with the way ursodiol works.
  • If you are using oral combined hormonal contraception ('birth control pill'), please ask your physician for advice. A method of contraception that contains less estrogen may be more suitable for you.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with ursodiol. 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 physician or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common ursodiol side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicineWhat can I do if I experience this?
DiarrheaDrink plenty of water to replace lost fluids. If this becomes troublesome, speak with your physician
Other possible but less common side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Itchy skin rash, feeling sickIf either of these becomes troublesome, speak with your physician

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your physician or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight 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 emergency room of your local hospital. 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. Ask your pharmacist about ways to dispose of medicines safely in your local area.

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

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Author:
Mr Michael Stewart
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
29321 (v1)
Last Checked:
01 March 2017
Next Review:
29 February 2020
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The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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