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What is Dolasetron?

By Melanie Smeltzer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dolasetron is a medication most commonly used to help repress nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy, coming out of anesthesia after surgery, or suffering from bulimia nervosa. This drug works by blocking serotonin from triggering certain receptors that are associated with the physical urge to vomit. Although this medication is considered effective, many feel that it works best when combined with other drugs, especially for nausea caused by cancer treatments.

This drug is what is known as a serotonin 5-Hydroxytryptamine 3 (5-HT3) receptor antagonist that works in both the brain and the stomach. Serotonin, among other things, is a chemical that is often associated with nausea and vomiting. 5-HT3 receptors exist in many areas of the body that help to trigger the urge to vomit. When serotonin is released, it may stimulate certain nerves by way of 5-HT3 receptors, which may cause nausea or vomiting. Dolasetron helps to block serotonin from stimulating these receptors.

Dolasetron is best known as a preventative anti-nausea treatment for those who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In chemotherapy, this medication is often given intravenously at least 30 minutes prior to treatment, while in radiation therapy, it is usually administered directly after treatment. This drug is also sometimes given in the form of a tablet prior to certain surgical procedures, or as an injection after surgery. In addition, when this drug is coupled with psychotherapy, it is sometimes prescribed to help curb the physical urge to vomit in patients with bulimia nervosa.

In general, dolasetron is prescribed in tablet form, but may also be given in the form of an injection or an intravenous drip. This drug stays in the system for a long period of time, as it is slow to dissolve in the system. A single dose may last between four and nine hours, and may be dispensed once or twice a day.

Most people tolerate dolasetron well, but there are some potential side effects. Dizziness, diarrhea, and headaches are the most common side effects, and are usually thought to be mild. Serious but rare side effects can include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and fainting. If this drug is taken as a shot or in an intravenous drip, it may cause tenderness, swelling, or redness at the injection site. Although skin reactions are common, if other skin conditions, such as rashes, occur, it is important to contact a medical professional immediately.

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