Cytotec (Misoprostol)

How does it work?

Cytotec tablets contain the active ingredient misoprostol, which is a type of medicine called a prostaglandin analogue. It is used in the treatment and prevention of ulcers in the stomach and intestines (peptic ulcers). It works by mimicking the action of natural gut-protective prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are a group of natural body chemicals found in many places in the body. Misoprostol acts on the same receptors in the stomach as the natural prostaglandins that help to protect the lining of the stomach. By binding to these receptors in the stomach it stimulates the production of protective mucus. This coats the lining of the stomach and intestines and reduces the production of stomach acid. Misoprostol can therefore be used to help allow ulcers in these areas to heal.

Painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac and naproxen, can reduce the production of gut protective prostaglandins. This means they have the potential to damage the gut lining, causing ulcers, bleeding and sometimes even perforation (holes) in the gut. Misoprostol can be used to help prevent damage to the lining of the gut for people who are taking NSAIDs to manage long-term conditions such as arthritis.

What is it used for?

  • Preventing peptic ulcers in people who need to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac or naproxen.
  • Treating peptic ulcers.

How do I take it?

  • Cytotec tablets should be taken with food. The tablets should be swallowed with a drink of water.
  • The dose prescribed and how often the medicine needs to be taken depends on whether it is being used to treat or prevent ulcers in the stomach or intestine. It is important to follow the instructions given by your doctor. These will be printed on the dispensing label your pharmacist has put on the packet of medicine.


  • This medicine may cause dizziness. You should take care when performing potentially hazardous activities, such as driving or operating machinery, until you know how this medicine affects you and are sure you can perform such activities safely.
  • This medicine can cause contractions of the uterus. It should not be used by pregnant women (except for specialist use in termination of pregnancy). Women who could get pregnant and need to take this medicine must use a reliable method of contraception to prevent pregnancy while using this medicine. Ask your doctor for further advice.
  • Cytotec tablets contain castor oil which can cause diarrhoea and upset stomach.
  • Stomach cancer can have similar symptoms to stomach ulcers, and these symptoms can be relieved by misoprostol. For this reason, if it is suspected that you have a stomach ulcer, your doctor should exclude the possibility of stomach cancer before you start treatment with this medicine. Otherwise, this medicine could mask the symptoms of stomach cancer and therefore delay diagnosis of this condition. This is particularly important if you are middle aged or older and have new or recently changed symptoms.

Use with caution in

  • People with heart disease.
  • People with high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • People with disease of the blood vessels in and around the brain (cerebrovascular disease), for example people who have had a stroke or mini-stroke.
  • People who suffer frequent diarrhoea, for example due to conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.

Not to be used in

  • Women planning a pregnancy. (Women who could get pregnant should use an effective method of contraception to prevent pregnancy while taking this medicine - see warning section above).
  • Pregnancy (except for specialist unlicensed use in termination of pregnancy).
  • Breastfeeding.
  • This medicine is not recommended for children.

This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.

If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.

  • This medicine must not be used by women who are pregnant, or who are planning a pregnancy, because it can be harmful to an unborn baby. (It is used by specialists in the termination of pregnancy.) Misoprostol mimics the effects of prostaglandins involved in starting labour and causes contractions of the womb. It is important to use an effective method of contraception while you are taking this medicine. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.
  • This medicine passes into breast milk. As it could cause side effects in a nursing infant, the manufacturer states that it should not be used by women who are breastfeeding. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.

Label warnings

  • Take this medication with or after food.

Side effects

Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Just because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.

Very common (affect more than 1 in 10 people)

  • Diarrhoea.
  • Rash.

Common (affect between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people)

  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Disturbances of the gut such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, indigestion, constipation, flatulence.

Uncommon (affect between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 people)

  • Abnormally heavy or painful menstrual bleeding, which may be associated with abnormally long periods.
  • Menstrual spotting between periods.
  • Fever.

Unknown frequency (associated with unlicensed specialist use in pregnancy termination)

  • Abnormal contractions of the womb.
  • Incomplete abortion.
  • Retained placenta.
  • Rupture or perforation of the uterus (womb).

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer.

For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this medicine affect other medicines?

It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you are already taking, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, before you start treatment with this medicine. Similarly, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines while taking this one, to ensure that the combination is safe.

Magnesium-containing antacids should be avoided whilst taking this medicine as they may increase the incidence of diarrhoea, which is one of the very common side effects of misoprostol.

Other medicines containing the same active ingredient

There are currently no other medicines available in the UK that contain misoprostol as the only active ingredient.

Arthrotec tablets contain diclofenac with misoprostol.

Napratec tablets contain naproxen with misoprostol.