Worst Pills, Best Pills

An expert, independent second opinion on more than 1,800 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements

Drug Profile

The information on this site is intended to supplement and enhance, not replace, the advice of a physician who is familiar with your medical history. Decisions about your health should always be made ONLY after detailed conversation with your doctor.

Limited Use [what does this mean?]
Generic drug name: bethanechol (be THAN e kole)
Brand name(s): URECHOLINE
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Cholinergics
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings [top]

Pregnancy Warning

No data are available for bethanechol from either animal or human studies. Use during pregnancy only for clear medical reasons. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant before you take this drug.

Breast-feeding Warning

No information is available from either human or animal studies. Since it is likely that this drug, like many others, is excreted in human milk, you should consult with your doctor if you are planning to nurse.

Facts About This Drug [top]

Under certain circumstances (e.g., after spinal cord injury, surgery, or childbirth), urine accumulates in the bladder, which cannot be emptied. This is a potentially serious condition, because in addition to the obvious discomfort, the bladder can even rupture in rare cases. Bethanechol helps stimulate the emptying of the bladder by causing the bladder to contract. The contraction of the bladder is stimulated by a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, and bethanechol performs the same...

Under certain circumstances (e.g., after spinal cord injury, surgery, or childbirth), urine accumulates in the bladder, which cannot be emptied. This is a potentially serious condition, because in addition to the obvious discomfort, the bladder can even rupture in rare cases. Bethanechol helps stimulate the emptying of the bladder by causing the bladder to contract. The contraction of the bladder is stimulated by a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, and bethanechol performs the same function as acetylcholine; for this reason it is known as a cholinergic drug. However, its use has generally been replaced by more effective agents.[1]

Although some doctors use the drug to prevent the backward flow of stomach contents into the esophagus (reflux esophagitis), evidence to support this use is very limited[2] and the FDA has not approved the drug for this purpose. Information on this condition, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and its treatment are discussed in the section titled Ulcers and Gastroesopageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

The drug should not be used if the bladder or gastrointestinal wall may be weak, as the increased contractions may lead to rupture. Such conditions include mechanical obstruction, surgery, and inflammation.

Importantly, there are a number of drugs that can cause blocked urination. A list of these drugs can be found here.

Before You Use This Drug [top]

Tell your doctor if you have or have had:

  • allergy to bethanechol
  • asthma
  • bladder disorder or obstruction
  • blood pressure that is high or low
  • constipation
  • coronary artery disease
  • epilepsy
  • heart problems
  • hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
  • intestinal disorder or obstruction
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • peritonitis
  • pregnancy or are breast-feeding
  • recent surgery to the abdomen
  • recent surgery to the urinary bladder
  • sweating that is excessive
  • ulcer of the stomach or duodenum

Tell your doctor about any other drugs you take, including aspirin, herbs, vitamins, and other nonprescription products.

When You Use This Drug [top]

  • You may feel dizzy when rising from a lying or sitting position. When getting out of bed, hang your legs over the side of the bed for a few minutes, then get up slowly. When getting up from a chair, stay by the chair until you are sure that you are not dizzy.

How to Use This Drug [top]

  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but skip it if it is two or more hours after the time you would have taken it. Do not take double doses.
  • Do not share your medication with others.
  • Take the drug at the same time(s) each day.
  • Do not eat or drink for about an hour before or after taking this medication.

Interactions with Other Drugs [top]

Evaluations of Drug Interactions 2003 lists no drugs, biologics (e.g., vaccines, therapeutic antibodies), or foods as causing “highly clinically significant” or “clinically significant” interactions when used together with the drugs in this section. We also found no interactions in the drugs’ FDA-approved professional package inserts. However, as the number of new drugs approved for marketing increases and as more experience is gained with these drugs over time, new interactions may be discovered.

Adverse Effects [top]

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • shortness of breath, wheezing, or chest tightness

Call your doctor if these symptoms continue:

  • belching
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • faint feeling
  • headache
  • mouth watering
  • nausea or vomiting
  • nervousness
  • seizures
  • skin red, flushed, or feeling warm
  • sleeping difficulty
  • stomach discomfort or pain
  • sweating increased
  • urinate, frequent urge to
  • vision changes

last reviewed April 30, 2021