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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: bromocriptine (broe moe KRIP teen)
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Drugs for Parkinson’s Disease
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings [top]

Pregnancy Warning

Ergot alkaloids can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should not take this drug.

Breast-feeding Warning

Ergot alkaloids are excreted in human milk. Because of the potential for serious adverse effects in nursing infants, you should not take this drug while nursing.

Safety Warnings For This Drug [top]

Do Not Use Bromocriptine for Postpartum Breast Engorgement

This drug has caused heart attacks, strokes, and seizures in young, healthy women who were prescribed bromocriptine to suppress lactation after giving birth (postpartum lactation suppression) when safer, more effective nondrug measures were available.

The Health Research Group ultimately had to file suit against the FDA to remove postpartum lactation suppression as an approved use for bromocriptine in 1995.

Heat Stress Alert

This drug can affect your body’s ability to adjust to heat, putting you at risk of “heat stress.” If you live alone, ask a friend to check on you several times during the day. Early signs of heat stress are dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, and slightly high temperature. Call your doctor if you have any of these signs. Drink more fluids (water, fruit and vegetable juices) than usual—even if you’re not thirsty—unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Do not drink alcohol.

Facts About This Drug [top]

Bromocriptine is derived from ergot and has several uses. Discussed here is its use for Parkinson’s disease, for which it is the second-choice drug, after a combination of levodopa and carbidopa (SINEMET, SINEMET CR). If you have Parkinson’s disease, your doctor should first try levodopa with carbidopa and should prescribe bromocriptine only if the combination drug does not decrease your symptoms or if it causes too many adverse effects. Bromocriptine often works best when given with...

Bromocriptine is derived from ergot and has several uses. Discussed here is its use for Parkinson’s disease, for which it is the second-choice drug, after a combination of levodopa and carbidopa (SINEMET, SINEMET CR). If you have Parkinson’s disease, your doctor should first try levodopa with carbidopa and should prescribe bromocriptine only if the combination drug does not decrease your symptoms or if it causes too many adverse effects. Bromocriptine often works best when given with levodopa. If you are over 60, you should generally be taking less than the usual adult dose.

If you have symptoms of parkinsonism (tremor; rigid muscles and disturbances in posture; or difficulties in walking, balance, speech, swallowing or muscle strength), there is a good chance that they are caused by a drug you are taking. As many as half of older adults with symptoms of parkinsonism may have developed them as adverse effects of a drug. (See "List of drugs that cause parkinsonism, drug induced" on WorstPills.org.) If you take any of the drugs on that list, discuss the possibility of drug-induced parkinsonism with your doctor and ask to have your prescription changed or stopped.

Prescrire International published an article in March 2011 on the risk of inhibited lactation in women associated with using bromocriptine. Adverse cardiovascular and neurological effects (including hypertension, stroke, hallucinations and seizures) were reported during the period studied.[1]

In 2014, a committee within the European Medicines Agency (EMA), an agency similar to the FDA, recommended that bromocriptine not be used to suppress lactation in women after giving birth unless there is a compelling medical reason for stopping lactation. Women who have an increased risk for side effects should not use bromocriptine.[2],[3]

In 2015, a study published in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG showed that cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric adverse effects were reported when bromocriptine was used to suppress lactation in women after giving birth.[4]

(See the above warning section: “Do Not Use Bromocriptine for Postpartum Breast Engorgement.”)

Side effects

In older adults, bromocriptine often causes dizziness, nausea, constipation, and tingling in fingers or toes when they are exposed to the cold. It can also cause more serious adverse effects called choreiform movements — unusual and uncontrolled movements in the body, face, tongue, arms, hands, and upper body. About 25 percent of bromocriptine users in all age groups experience this adverse effect. If you have any of these symptoms, especially if they are severe or persistent, call your doctor and ask if your dose of bromocriptine should be reduced. Do not take less bromocriptine than your doctor prescribes unless he or she instructs you to do so.

Studies show...

Physicians from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., publishing in the September 2005 Archives of Neurology, examined the relationship between the drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, known as dopamine agonists, and pathological gambling. The dopamine agonist group of drugs includes bromocriptine, pergolide (PERMAX), pramipexole (MIRAPEX) and ropinirole (REQUIP).

The Mayo Clinic physicians identified 11 patients between 2002 and 2004 who met the definition of pathologic gamblers. All had Parkinson’s disease, and all were being treated with levodopa and a dopamine agonist. The Mayo Clinic physicians also searched the world’s medical literature for other reports of pathological gambling associated with the use of dopamine agonists. They found six published reports involving an additional 17 patients. The authors commented, “The relationship of pathological gambling to dopamine agonist therapy in these cases is striking.”[5]

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December 2014 showed that patients using dopamine agonist drugs have a higher risk of having impulse control disorder.  Symptoms of this disorder include compulsive gambling and shopping, hypersexuality, and more rarely binge eating and “punding,” which is a compulsive fascination with and performance of repetitive mechanical tasks.[6]

Regulatory actions surrounding bromocriptine

2005: The FDA revised the product package insert of bromocriptine regarding postmarketing safety data relating to sudden onset of sleep and possible problems involving the membranes that line and surround the heart and lungs.[7]

Before You Use This Drug [top]

Do not use if you have or have had:

  • pregnancy or are breast-feeding

Tell your doctor if you have or have had:

  • allergies to bromocriptine or other ergot alkaloids
  • liver problems
  • mental illness
  • high blood pressure

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

When You Use This Drug [top]

  • Do not use more or less often or in a higher or lower dose than prescribed. Higher doses increase the risk of adverse effects, while lower doses may worsen symptoms of parkinsonism.
  • Until you know how you react to this drug, do not drive or perform other activities requiring alertness. Bromocriptine can cause drowsiness and lightheadedness.
  • 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.
  • Do not drink alcohol while using this drug.
  • If you get dry mouth, use sugarless gum or candy, ice, or saliva substitute. Check with your doctor or dentist if dry mouth continues for more than two weeks.
  • Have regular checkups with your doctor to monitor progress.

How to Use This Drug [top]

  • Take with food or milk.
  • Store at room temperature with lid on tightly. Do not store in the bathroom. Do not expose to heat, moisture, or strong light. Keep out of reach of children.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but skip it if it is more than four hours since the last dose. Do not take double doses.
  • Do not share your medication with others.
  • Take the drug at the same time(s) each day.

Interactions with Other Drugs [top]

The following drugs, biologics (e.g., vaccines, therapeutic antibodies), or foods are listed in Evaluations of Drug Interactions 2003 as causing “highly clinically significant” or “clinically significant” interactions when used together with any of the drugs in this section. In some sections with multiple drugs, the interaction may have been reported for one but not all drugs in this section, but we include the interaction because the drugs in this section are similar to one another. We have also included potentially serious interactions listed in the drug’s FDA-approved professional package insert or in published medical journal articles. There may be other drugs, especially those in the families of drugs listed below, that also will react with this drug to cause severe adverse effects. Make sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist the drugs you are taking and tell them if you are taking any of these interacting drugs:

CRIXIVAN, delavirdine, efavirenz, FORTOVASE, HALDOL, haloperidol, indinavir, INVIRASE, MAXALT, MELLARIL, MERIDIA, metoclopramide, ORAP, pimozide, REGLAN, REQUIP, RESCRIPTOR, rizatriptan, ropinirole, saquinavir, sibutramine, SUSTIVA, thioridazine.

Adverse Effects [top]

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • confusion
  • uncontrolled body movements, particularly of the face, tongue, arms, hands, head, and upper body
  • hallucinations
  • severe chest pain
  • fainting
  • fast heartbeat
  • increased sweating
  • continuing or severe nausea and vomiting
  • nervousness
  • unexplained shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • atypical headache
  • blurred vision or temporary blindness
  • black, tarry stools
  • bloody vomit
  • severe or continuing abdominal or stomach pain
  • increased frequency of urination
  • loss of appetite
  • lower back pain

Call your doctor if these symptoms continue:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness or tiredness
  • dry mouth
  • nighttime leg cramps
  • appetite loss
  • mental depression
  • tingling or pain in fingers or toes when exposed to cold
  • stomach pain
  • stuffy nose
  • vomiting

Periodic Tests[top]

Ask your doctor which of these tests should be done periodically while you are taking this drug:

  • blood pressure

last reviewed December 31, 2023