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What Is Sulbutiamine?

By Andy Josiah
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sulbutiamine is the generic name for Arcalion, a medication best known for treating asthenia, which is abnormal physical weakness or reduction of energy. It is also used to improve memory and treat erectile dysfunction. It is a synthetic derivative of thiamine, also known as thiamin or vitamin B. In this, it is similar to other drugs such as allithiamine, benfotiamine, fursultiamine and prosultiamine. Sulbutiamine also goes by the brand names Arcatamin, Arnion, Enerion, Megastene, Pymeacolion or Surmenalit.

The origin of sulbutiamine can be traced to Japan, where beriberi, a nervous system condition marked by a deficiency in thiamine, was prevalent prior to the 20th century. After Japanese naval physician Takaki Kanehiro noted the possible link between beriberi and diet, thiamine was discovered in the mid-1930s. Further work led to the development of allithiamine in 1951, which was the first thiamine derivative used for treating vitamin deficiency.

Also known as thiamine allyl disulfide (TAD), allithiamine naturally occurs in garlic and is considered a form of vitamin B that is easily dissolved in water-soluble organic compounds known as lipids. Sulbutiamine made its first appearance in the mid-1970s. It was developed to provide a derivative with more lipophilicity, which is in reference to a compound's capability to dissolve in lipids.

Sulbutiamine is usually manufactured as a 200-milligram tablet, to be taken three times a day via oral administration. Thus the most common dosage is 600 mg. In a report published in the 2005 book Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, however, a group of French medical researchers recommend a 850-mg therapeutic dosage for patients who weigh no less than 150 pounds (68 kilograms). Ultimately, dosage recommendations vary widely, and sulbutiamine is also available as a capsule or powder.

Some people who take sulbutiamine may develop a mild skin allergy, and some elderly patients in particular may experience a small measure of anxiety or nervousness. A 2006 article based on the study of a patient with bipolar disorder was published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, indicating that overuse of the drug can cause complications. There are few side effects, however, associated with sulbutiamine.

Sulbutiamine is available in more than 30 countries, mostly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. They include Colombia, India, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam. Generally, however, the drug does not enjoy widespread legal status. Additionally, it is not known to be manufactured or marketed in the United States, where it has yet to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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Discussion Comments
By anon285557 — On Aug 16, 2012

If you think the FDA's approval means anything you are misinformed.

The FDA has approved a ton of drugs that have led to terrible side effects and even fatalities of its users.

Honestly, there are very few drugs that have been deemed truly safe for long term use.

By discographer — On Aug 16, 2011

@burcinc-- I think that it is not FDA approved because there aren't enough studies done on it to know all of what sulbutiamine's side effects are. The article touched on this a little bit.

I have read about sulbutiamine and it seems that there are a wide range of side effects like after-jitters, anxiety, sleeping problems, bad mood, headaches and so forth.

Some say that they feel really good the day they take this supplement, but the next day, they feel very tired or suffer from headaches. It makes some people very hyper and overactive to the point that they can't sleep that night.

Of course, we don't know how much of it they are taking and if they are taking other medications and supplements that might counteract with it. We really don't know that much about how it works in the body either.

I think that the FDA should at least do some studies on sulbutiamine to inform the public. It really is a great supplement and has a lot of benefits if used correctly.

By fify — On Aug 15, 2011

@burcinc-- My cousin is a body builder and he takes it for better energy during his workouts. He says that it helps him pay attention in his classes too.

I think he said that he buys it from an online pharmacy. I think the online pharmacies import them from outside and sell them here. Apparently it's not illegal to do that even though it is not approved here in the US.

If any of these online stores say that it is FDA approved, don't believe them. They might be packed in an FDA approved facility, but the sulbutiamine itself cannot be approved.

I know lots of people are taking it, but they do at their own risk. No one will be responsible if there are side effects.

By burcinc — On Aug 14, 2011

I think a lot of athletics use sulbutiamine for the extra energy. Of course, regular folks use it too for better energy and concentration at work.

I'm actually surprised that it is used by a lot of people despite the fact that it is not approved by the FDA. I would have expected it to not be in use at all in the US.

I don't think that it's necessarily a dangerous supplement. There are plenty supplements on the shelves that are synthetic versions of natural vitamins and minerals, this is yet another.

I wonder why the FDA won't approve it and I'm also curious as to where people are getting a hold of sulbutiamine tablets?

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