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Study Supports Pilocarpine’s Use for Radiation-Induced Xerostomia


While pilocarpine has long been used to treat xerostomia and glaucoma, researchers from Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, investigated the evidence supporting its use in addressing radiation-induced xerostomia among patients with head and neck cancer. Such analysis may be key to understanding optimal treatment for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

The results of a systematic search, comprising both meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials, were published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. In their paper, “Efficacy and Safety of Pilocarpine for Radiation-Induced Xerostomia in Patients With Head and Neck Cancer,” the reviewers found evidence that pilocarpine provides statistically significant benefits to patients who experience radiation-induced dry mouth. Side effects of the drug were mild, with sweating being the most commonly reported. The authors suggest that patients experiencing radiation-induced xerostomia take 5 mg of pilocarpine up to three times daily to address their symptoms. The researchers also noted, however, that their review included few studies that qualified as best-available evidence, and that more research is warranted.

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