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Tetrabenazine chemical structure

1,3,4,6,7,11b-Hexahydro- 9,10-dimethoxy-3- (2-methylpropyl)- 2H-benzo[a]quinoline; Ro-1-9569
IUPAC name
CAS number
ATC code


Chemical formula {{{chemical_formula}}}
Molecular weight 317.427
Elimination half-life
Pregnancy category
Legal status Orphan drug
Routes of administration tablets: 25 mg

Tetrabenazine is a drug for the symptomatical treatment of hyperkinetic movement disorder and is marketed under the trade names Nitoman® in Canada and Xenazine® in New Zealand and some parts of Europe, and is also available in the USA as an orphan drug. The compound is known since the 1950s. Tetrabenazine works mainly as a VMAT-inhibitor[1] and as such promotes the early metabolic degradation of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Common uses

Tetrabenazine is used as a treatment, but not a cure for hyperkinetic disorders[2] such as:

Side effects

Because tetrabenazine is closely related to the antipsychotics, many of its side effects are similar. Some of these include:

  • Depression - the most common side effect, reported in roughly 15% of those who take the medication
  • Dizziness/drowsiness
  • Akathisia (aka "restless pacing" - an inability to keep still, with intense anxiety when forced to do so)
  • Parkinsonism

Unlike many of the antipychotics, tetrabenazine is not known to cause Tardive dyskinesia, and in fact can be an effective treatment for the antipsychotic-induced movement disorder.


  • Because of the relatively high incidence of depression, it has been recommended that people with a history of depression avoid taking tetrabenazine. Research into this is ongoing however, and this warning may be dropped in the future.
  • The concomitant intake of MAO inhibitors is contraindicated.


  1. Guangrong Zheng et al. (2006): "Vesicular Monoamine Transporter 2: Role as a Novel Target for Drug Development", AAPSJ. Fulltext
  2. Jankovic J, Beach J (1997). Long-term effects of tetrabenazine in hyperkinetic movement disorders.. Neurology 48 (2): 358-62. PMID 9040721.

External links

Template:Other nervous system drugs]]

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