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What is Viokase®?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Viokase® is a prescription medication that aids in digestion and metabolism in patients who have chronic pancreatic problems. When natural enzymes in the pancreas are in short supply or fail to function properly, the body cannot fully digest fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and other important nutrients. Viokase® replaces missing enzymes with similar natural and synthetic chemicals. Patients who take the medication with each meal as instructed by their doctors generally see significant improvements in their symptoms. There are some slight risks of side effects and drug interactions that should be discussed with a physician before starting medical treatment.

The pancreas produces a number of vital enzymes, including protease, amylase, and lipase, that help absorb and break down nutrients from food. Obstructions in the pancreatic ducts, genetic defects, and diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis can lead to major shortages of these enzymes. In turn, a person may experience symptoms such as fatty stools, fatigue, and malnutrition. Viokase® boosts enzyme levels to make up for a dysfunctional pancreas.

Viokase® comes in tablet, powder, and extended-release capsule forms. A doctor determines the appropriate form and dosage amount based on a patient's age, weight, and specific health problem. Most adults are instructed to take one to three tablets or capsules with each meal of the day. Children and adults who have trouble swallowing pills can mix carefully measured dosages of the powder with their food. It is important to follow the doctors' instructions exactly to achieve the best possible results.

Most people are able to take Viokase® without suffering from major side effects. Some of the most common temporary reactions include stomach upset, abdominal cramps, gas, and bloating. Some patients also experience constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea as their bodies adjust to the medication. When taken in the powder form, the medication may irritate the lining of the mouth and throat as it is swallowed. Physicians suggest taking Viokase® powder and non-coated tablets with plenty of water to help avoid mouth irritation and reduce the risk of experiencing gastrointestinal side effects.

An allergic reaction to Viokase® is unlikely, though complications can become serious if a reaction does occur. It is important to call a doctor or visit the emergency room if skin hives, chest tightness, or breathing difficulties arise after taking a dose. The physician can prescribe a different medication or consider other treatment options if a patient does not respond well to Viokase®.

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