treats a movement disorder associated with Huntington's disease. If you stop taking it or miss a dose, your involuntary movements may return or worsen in 12-18 hours after the last dose.

Tetrabenazine Overview

Reviewed: October 15, 2013

Tetrabenazine is a prescription medication used to treat chorea, a type of movement disorder. Tetrabenazine belongs to a group of drugs called VMAT inhibitors, which help to restore the balance of natural compounds in the brain in order to restore muscle control.

This medication comes in tablet form and is typically taken 1 to 3 times a day, with or without food.

Common side effects of tetrabenazine include drowsiness, depression, nausea, and dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how tetrabenazine affects you.

Tetrabenazine Genetic Information

CYP2D6 is a protein in your body that is involved in the elimination of tetrabenazine and other drugs from your body. Some patients have less of this protein in their bodies, affecting how much of the drug gets eliminated. Levels of CYP2D6 can vary greatly between individuals, and those having less of this protein are known as "poor metabolizers." 

CYP2D6 testing is done to determine whether you are a poor metabolizer. If you are a poor metabolizer, the levels of tetrabenazine in your blood can become too high. As a result you may be at an increased risk of having more side effects from tetrabenazine. 

Your doctor may adjust your dose of tetrabenazine if you are a poor metabolizer.

How was your experience with Tetrabenazine?

First, a little about yourself

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What tips would you provide a friend before taking Tetrabenazine?

What are you taking Tetrabenazine for?

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  • Other

How long have you been taking it?

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  • Less than a week
  • A couple weeks
  • A month or so
  • A few months
  • A year or so
  • Two years or more

How well did Tetrabenazine work for you?

Did you experience many side effects while taking this drug?

How likely would you be to recommend Tetrabenazine to a friend?

Uses of Tetrabenazine

Tetrabenazine is a prescription medication used to treat chorea, a type of movement disorder.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tetrabenazine Brand Names

Tetrabenazine may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Tetrabenazine Drug Class

Tetrabenazine is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Tetrabenazine

Serious side effects have been reported with tetrabenazine. See the “Drug Precautions” section.

Common side effects of tetrabenazine include the following:

  • drowsiness
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • restlessness or agitiation
  • nausea
  • irritability
  • dizzinesss

This is not a complete list of tetrabenazine side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Tetrabenazine FDA Warning


Tetrabenazine can increase the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior (suicidality) in patients with Huntington's disease. Anyone considering the use of tetrabenazine must balance the risks of depression and suicidality with the clinical need for control of choreiform movements. Close observation of patients for the emergence or worsening of depression, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior should accompany therapy. Patients, their caregivers, and families should be informed of the risk of depression and suicidality and should be instructed to report behaviors of concern promptly to the treating physician.

Particular caution should be exercised in treating patients with a history of depression or prior suicide attempts or ideation, which are increased in frequency in Huntington's disease. Tetrabenazine is contraindicated in patients who are actively suicidal, and in patients with untreated or inadequately treated depression.